Live from election night: Reactions from Whitman students

Genevieve Vogel, Feature Reporter

The Wire reached out to four Whitman students as voting numbers flooded in on Nov. 3, election night. Each hour, these students were asked to respond to a prompt and email back their responses.

In the final days before the election, nationwide polls expected a strong victory for Joe Biden against Donald Trump. However, many Americans remained skeptical because a similar level of confidence also characterized 2016 when Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee.

Students planned to receive their news from multiple sources, sometimes at once. ABC, NBC, KING5 and Bloomberg were the television networks of choice. Along with which students sought updates from FiveThirtyEight, Google Live Election Results and Twitter for race calls. Online live commentary dashboards were also mentioned.

Below are how junior James DeGraw, senior Matthew Bowman, first year Megan Strom and senior John Conners answered the prompts.

At 8 p.m. EST, polls were just beginning to close. In anticipation of the election, Trump had tweeted, The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!” on Oct. 30, and “The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one. It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!” on Nov. 2.


The Wire: What development so far has surprised you the most?

Bowman: “I am moderately surprised Trump is winning Florida. I have been paying a ton of attention to FiveThirtyEight, and it seemed like Florida was in Biden’s favor. That being said, Biden does not necessarily need Florida. Just seems like we won’t get the blue wave that was a possibility.”

Strom: “One thing that has surprised me is that there are so many counties in states like Florida, but there are only a few that have voted blue and the rest are red; but the discrepancy between Trump and Biden is pretty much negligible. That’s so crazy. Also the Biden lead in North Carolina??? Gee willikers.”

Conners: “The early exit polls were just released, and so far there is nothing too surprising. What I have found most shocking so far today is the rhetoric from President Trump and his cronies that reinforce the false belief that the election may be rigged, mail-in votes are fraudulent, votes should all be counted on election night, etc.”

At around 9 p.m. EST, Biden had 119 electoral votes and Trump had 93. A group of states that were expected to lean red or blue by a high margin were called. Mitch McConnell won reelection to the Senate in Kentucky, beating Democrat Amy McGrath. Florida was undeclared but leaning red.


The Wire: What development so far has disappointed you the most?

DeGraw: “Florida. Amy McGrath being so behind in Kentucky is also disappointing, but not really surprising.”

Bowman: “I am disappointed that it appears that Trump has seemed to keep most of the same areas as last year. The map is looking scarily close to 2016. That being said, it is looking good in Arizona.”

Strom: “I was really hoping for a democratic win for the Kentucky senate, but Mitch McConnell is winning. I didn’t know how likely that would be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not possible right now. I hate Mitch McConnell with a burning passion, and I wish I could tell him that to his ugly face. Time to eat dinner now!”

Conners: “At the moment much of the poll data that I have been following for the past few days appears to be flawed. I’m not sure if the models are fundamentally wrong or whether there has been a major shift in voter turnout, but it looks like, just as in 2016, the election may be closer than initially predicted.”

By 10 p.m. EST, polls in the Midwest were closing.


The Wire: Have you heard a concession or rally speech (at the local, state, or federal level)? If so, what are your thoughts?

Students did not watch concession or rally speeches. Strom reasoned that she did not feel like she needed to be persuaded anymore after voting.

At around 11 p.m. EST, Biden had 205 electoral votes and Trump had 112. Biden won California and Washington. Governor Inslee was reelected in Washington. DeGraw and Bowman are from California, while Strom and Conners are from Washington. 


The Wire: Are your home state’s results in? Thoughts? 

DeGraw: “Yes. Seeing that Biden won California surprised absolutely no one. So, that’s not what I’m paying attention to. I’m waiting to see ballot measures and how those play out; but California reports won’t be known for a while probably.”

Bowman: “As I wrote this California was just called! No surprise Biden won.”

Strom: “The polls here in Washington just closed. They showed on the news that some people are still turning their ballots in, so it might be a while before the results start coming in. However, the Associated Press has already called the race for governor, and Jay Inslee will be serving a third term. It’s nice to have some good news.”

Conners: “Washington State results are starting to come in. So far the AP has called a win for Biden in Washington as well as incumbent Governor Jay Inslee. I wasn’t surprised to see a Biden win in Washington, but I’m very happy to see a decisive win for Inslee, because Loren Culp has gained an increasingly concerning level of support across the state. I’m glad that my home state is electing candidates that care about the environment, social and racial justice, and other important issues that I view the Republican Party as not only failing to address, but often actively exacerbating.”

At midnight EST, the battleground state races were heating up. The New York Times had Trump leading in Georgia and North Carolina, but giving Biden a slight chance.


The Wire: What has made you feel hopeful and why?

DeGraw: “Not so much as hopeful, but simply the fact that the election will not be decided tonight reduces stress. I also believe that higher voter turnouts are better for this country, regardless of the outcome. So, seeing record turnouts is encouraging,” DeGraw said.

Bowman: “I am hopeful because Biden won Arizona [according to the Associated Press, but not the New York Times] and Georgia is looking good. As expected it will come down to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. That being said, I am hopeful because the mail-in votes have not been all counted,” Bowman said.

Strom:  “A trend I have noticed is that the most populated parts of many states are very very blue, which is making me hopeful that the popular vote will continue to swing in Biden’s direction,” Strom said.

Conners: “The presidential race looks very tight in terms of electoral voting, and it appears that many of the polls I followed were flawed. I’ve been reading that in many of the swing states, in which President Trump is currently leading, that mail-in or absentee ballots are often counted last and that these tend to be primarily made up of those who are registered democrats. I am hoping that when the final votes are tallied, we will see Joe Biden start to narrow these gaps and pick up necessary swing state electoral points,” Conners said.

At around 1 a.m. EST, Biden had 223 electoral votes and Trump had 174.


The Wire: Have you learned anything?

DeGraw: “Not really. I’m hesitant to take away any big lessons from this election just because there are still so many states that have not been decided yet. It’s difficult to really take anything away from this election because it’s still in the earliest stages,” DeGraw said.

Strom: “My mom was worried that the electoral college would tie. So I did some research, and I found out that if that happens it is up to the House to choose the president [in] January. I am not sure how likely this is to actually happen, but the last time it did was over 200 years ago,” Strom said.

Conners: “I have learned just how divided our nation currently is, because I was honestly expecting a sizable win for Joe Biden. It feels as if our democracy is becoming increasingly fractured and that we are experiencing a serious, online misinformation problem. Just as in 2016, I have learned not to trust the polls and models that different organizations have compiled prior to the election,” Conners said.

At around 2 a.m. EST, Biden had 224 electoral votes and Trump had 213. Trump tweeted at 12:49 am, baselessly, that the election was being stolen: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”


The Wire: What have you taken away from this election night? 

DeGraw: “Regardless of what happens in the coming days, I think it is clear that this will be a very tight race. I believe that once the dust has settled from this election, there will be a lot of questions that we will ask ourselves, both concerning our democracy and concerning actions taken by those in positions of power. Thinking of Trump’s speech about stopping vote counts when I say that,” DeGraw said.

Bowman: “I am going to bed. This election will not be called tonight and most likely will not be tomorrow. I have to say I am hopeful Biden will still win, but I’m bracing myself for a potential Trump win,” Bowman said.

Strom: “ The only thing I have taken away from this election is that I’m glad my doctor is putting me on Prozac. Just kidding (kind of). I’ve been texting some of my friends, and one of them said the results could take a few weeks to get all sorted out. I don’t even like waiting for the water to get hot before I wash my hands. This is torture. All I know right now is that Biden is leading the popular vote by almost two million [1,647,279 at 2:47 est], and I think I might have to take a rain check on my 8 a.m. class tomorrow depending on how well (or not well) I sleep. I have been eating my feelings all evening and am currently fighting off the urge to go downstairs and surrender to another bowl of Cheez-its. I will probably lose, just like Trump. Here’s to hoping!” Strom said.

Conners: “I am frustrated, disappointed and embarrassed by the results thus far, and I feel as if I’m living in an Orwellian reality. I am not a big fan of Joe Biden. However, I simply cannot imagine an additional four years with President Trump. My biggest takeaway from the night is that there are three primary failures that are plaguing our democracy. Firstly, the two party system simply does not work for all Americans and does not represent the changing demographics in this country. Secondarily, the Electoral College is an outdated system which simply values certain peoples votes over others, a completely undemocratic process. Thirdly, America has an information problem which is causing us to lose sight of important priorities and question the validity of our politicians and institutions. This final issue seems to be a result of the accessibility of the internet, development of big data, social media consolidation, search engine concentration and overall “big tech” monopolies. I currently cannot envision a future where our federal government is able to tackle the important issues of our generation. Therefore, it appears that it will be up to state governments, NGO’s and the private sector to solve the most pressing challenges we face as a country,” Conners said.


* One student requested that they remain anonymous; they are included in this article under the name John Conners.