On November 3, 2020, Berkeley residents and Americans alike went to the polls to cast their votes in local, state, and national elections. By election day, the majority of voters (more than 100 million) had already voted early, either by mail or in person. The unprecedented levels of early and mail-in voting, which were the result of health risks surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, led to significant delays in the counting of ballots. In the four days following election day, no major news outlet had projected a winner of the presidential election. Though a few of 2020’s races have yet to be called, there are still clear takeaways that can be drawn from this election cycle.
On November 7 at 8:24 AM, CNN became the first media outlet to officially project that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would win the presidency. CNN was then quickly followed by the Associated Press and NBC. When it became clear that Joe Biden would win the state of Pennsylvania, this pushed him over 270 electoral votes –– the threshold needed to win the presidency. Vice President Biden was also projected to win the state of Georgia on November 13, meaning that he will finish with 306 electoral votes –– the same count by which President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Nora Kessler, a sophomore at Berkeley High School (BHS), believes that younger voters were especially active in the 2020 election because of how President Trump’s policies may impact the country in years to come.
It feels like we have a future now.Nora Kessler, BHS student
“The fact that Trump will be out of office come January is extremely comforting,” Kessler said. “I went by Marin Circle where many people were celebrating the results, and it was such a flurry of hope and excitement. It feels like we have a future now.”
During a press conference in the early morning following election night, President Trump prematurely declared victory and called for election officials to stop counting ballots in Michigan and Wisconsin, two states Vice President Biden is now projected to win. The President also claimed, without evidence, that the Democratic Party was attempting to steal the election through widespread voter fraud and “illegal ballots.” Facing defeat, the President has refused to concede the race.
While Democrats were generally pleased with their success in the presidential election, Republicans were happy with their performance in most congressional contests.
Democratic candidates underperformed in congressional campaigns across the country. Though the electoral data firm FiveThirtyEight forecasted that Democrats would retake the Senate and expand their majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats seemed likely to fall short on both counts as of press time. Though Democrats reclaimed Senate seats in Arizona and Colorado, they fell short in most other contests throughout the country: Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Montana Senator Steve Daines, and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, all Republicans, won re-election in competitive races. Maine Senator Susan Collins, also a Republican, won re-election by a wide margin despite trailing her opponent in every poll conducted in September and October.
Despite losing seats, the Democratic Party is likely to hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives. Run-off races for both Senate seats in the state of Georgia — set to take place in January — will decide which party controls the Senate for the next two years.
At the state level, California voters rejected most 2020 ballot propositions. As of press time, only three ballot initiatives are projected to succeed: Propositions 17, 22, and 24. Prop. 17 will restore voting rights to parolees, who are currently prevented from voting until completing their parole sentences. Under Prop. 22, app-based companies (such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash) will be permitted to classify drivers as non-employees. Prop. 24 will increase consumer privacy protections by requiring businesses not to harvest data on users’ race, finances, or location.
Voters also rejected statewide ballot measures, including Propositions 15, 16, and 18. Prop. 15 would have raised taxes on large commercial properties to fund public K-12 schools and other local projects. Prop. 16 would have lifted California’s ban on affirmative action, allowing universities and employers to consider race in admissions and hiring. As a result of Prop. 18’s loss, 17-year-olds — including many BHS students — will not be granted the right to vote in primary elections.
Berkeley voters also decided on their representation in congress. Incumbent Representative Barbara Lee, whose congressional district encompasses Berkeley, Oakland, and much of the East Bay, was re-elected with more than 90 percent of the vote.