Julianna Pijar / Gavel Media

The Impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Election

COVID-19 has impacted American lives more than anyone could possibly imagine this year. 2020 has been an unprecedented time as the virus has rapidly spread throughout the country since March. On Tuesday, November 3, this year will become more chaotic as the election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden finally comes to a conclusion. While President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence seek reelection, former Vice President Joe Biden has the opportunity to become the first candidate to defeat an incumbent president since Bill Clinton in 1992. His running mate Senator Kamala Harris has the potential to become the first woman to hold the office of vice president. It is a historic election that has often been overshadowed by the pandemic.  

The campaign trail undoubtedly looked very different this year. Vice President Biden rarely appeared in front of crowds, prioritizing public safety and social-distancing guidelines. This led the Trump campaign to continuously taunt the former Vice President to “get out of his basement.” Trump briefly paused his campaign rallies during the pandemic but resumed his traditional gatherings on June 8 with what would become a widely criticized gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has held multiple events across the country, from a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore to a rally in Wisconsin. On Trump’s end, there has been no consistency regarding social distancing and masks. This reveals a stark contrast between the two candidates and how they campaigned in this climate. 

The conventions took place in a mostly virtual format. We saw two very different roll calls from the two parties. The Democratic delegates from each state sent in a video conveying a personal message and announcing how many delegates were pledged to Joe Biden. For example, Senator Robert Casey Jr. pledged Pennsylvania’s delegates in front of Joe Biden’s childhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Republicans, in a more traditional manner, had an in-person roll call in Washington D.C. 

The debates, which have been criticized by many, looked different as well. Candidates debated from socially distanced podiums, and Joe Biden walked onstage wearing a mask. COVID-19 was a significant debate issue. A Gallup poll discovered that 77% of Americans believe that the candidate's response to the pandemic was an important factor in choosing who to vote for.  Trump often criticized Biden for wearing a mask everywhere he went. These debates showed how the election has been altered by corona. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris frequently attacked the current administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic during debates. Kamala Harris described the Trump administration's response as the “greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

On October 5th, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for COVID-19 along with multiple staffers and White House officials. This significantly altered the schedule of the Trump campaign. After a brief stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump resumed campaigning, boasting about the treatment he received and his recovery from the virus. There was concern about whether Trump spread the virus to Biden at the debate, but there was no indication of this as Biden continuously tested negative. 

Amid people’s concerns about voting in-person, mail-in voting has become popular during this election cycle. According to a Pew Research poll, 50.3% of Americans voted in the 2020 primaries through an absentee ballot – more than twice as many as the 2016 general election. The New York Times found that 75% of Americans could receive a mail-in ballot ahead of the election. Furthermore, the Times predicted that a staggering 80 million ballots will be sent through the mail. Trump has raised many concerns about mail-in voting with numerous accusations of voter fraud. However, FBI Director Christopher Wray has testified that there is no evidence of widespread mail-in-voting fraud in the United States. 

This election is far from ordinary. From the mostly virtual conventions to mask-wearing, social distancing and one of the candidates contracting the virus, this election season has been unforgettable. The election might not end on Tuesday as all of the mail-in ballots may not be counted until a few days later. It could be days before we see a concession speech, and there could still be a great deal of confusion after that. Elections come with a great deal of uncertainty, especially during a global pandemic, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that all we can do is wait and see (and most importantly, vote).



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