This is an Election Day amid a generation-defining pandemic, a scourge which has uprooted our lives for nearly a year.
It is an Election Day in a nation divided and on edge, where some stores are boarding up windows in anticipation of unrest.
It is an Election Day by which time millions of people already have voted. That includes more than 595,000 and counting on Long Island, who took advantage of an expanded absentee ballot system, as well as an early voting process approved by state lawmakers last year. Both improvements have had their rough patches, with paperwork mix-ups for some voters’ ballots and long lines at some voting sites, but both proved indispensable additions this campaign season.
Finally, it is an Election Day that is a defining moment, a crux for the American story, one the world is watching with anticipation and trepidation as our complicated election process unfolds. If America cannot hold an election under a swirl of debilitating misinformation, or count all the votes without violence, what example does that set for other democracies under stress?
President Donald Trump’s mischaracterizations about and disparagements of the election process are not a vaunted example of leadership.
Voters must be vigilant but patient as the results are counted. It is possible that The Associated Press and major news networks will be unable to project a winner late Tuesday or early Wednesday. There is a flood of absentee ballots waiting to be opened and different rules in states around the country for how and when those are processed. In some states, like here in New York, ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can arrive later than Election Day. In others, like Florida, they can’t. The tabulation will take time, including in key battleground states.
Even when news organizations have made election night projections in less complicated races in the past, ballots continued to be counted and official results in certain places and races could take weeks. That’s even more true in down-ballot races. Be smart while watching and waiting the next few days. Ballots will be counted and lawyers from all sides are ready to oversee the process and make challenges to protect their party’s interests. Court challenges are likely.
It all sets the stage for an unusual and historic post-Election Day period. The peaceful transition of power is one of America’s true feats of exceptionalism — and we hope the nation’s leaders set that tone from the top. That is the way to honor this political season’s upswell in participation.
Until then, for those who haven’t voted, do so. You can find your voter site at voterlookup.elections.ny.gov. This is not an election to be an observer. Poll workers are taking precautions to ensure that you will have a safe way to register your choice. And when it’s all over, remember that the nation’s life and business continue, and we’ll have to live with each other in our towns and hamlets and neighborhoods, no matter the result.
— The editorial board