Faculty from across disciplines came together Wednesday afternoon to recap a strange Election Day.
The presidential race is still not over, with key states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Nevada remaining too close to call. At the panel, scholars in fields including constitutional and election law, political science and media discussed the road to this point and what could happen forward, breaking down polls and media coverage, democracy and litigation.
Guy-Uriel Charles, Edward and Ellen Schwarzman professor of law, discussed the possibility of litigation relating to election results. He argued that because the pre-election process resolved many of these arguments, the post election process will be “relatively barren of litigation.”
“There has to be a problem, a legal question. There’s got to be some procedure that a state didn’t follow or some violation of constitutional law and it’s going to be hard, I think, to find in this particular part of the process,” he said.
The Trump campaign announced several lawsuits on Wednesday, including attempts to stop vote counts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, but one legal expert told NBC News that the suits were unlikely to affect the election’s outcome.
The event was organized by the Sanford School of Public Policy and moderated by Mac McCorkle, professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy, and Deondra Rose, assistant professor in Sanford.
Judith Kelley, dean of Sanford, made note of how the electoral college is viewed around the world.
“The most common reaction right now is head scratching,” she said. “The electoral college, for one thing, is something that not a lot of countries have copied.”
While the election mostly went smoothly, Kelley mentioned that this political race has violated the norms that sustain democracy.
“Many things went right yesterday, and many things can still go right in terms of following all rules and processes to stay peaceful. But I think no matter who wins this election, the loser, in some way, is our democracy itself,” she said. “It’s certainly taking a beating, in that many of the norms that underlie what a democracy is have been tested and even violated in the more recent times.”
Bill Adair, Knight professor of the practice of journalism and public policy commented on conservative media and the highs and lows of news coverage during the 2020 election.
Although Adair praised mainstream outlets for their investigative reporting—particularly noting The New York Times’ investigation into Donald Trump’s finances—he also criticized news organizations for fixating on polling numbers.
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“We needed to keep the focus on holding power accountable,” he said. “In my world it’s about fact-checking, it’s about checking what they’ve said. And I think there was just this mania for ‘who’s up, who’s down.’”
Adair said that a split in the media ecosystem makes it possible for people to “exist in two different worlds.”
“There’s just two very different realities if you’re watching conservative media,” he said. “You’re not seeing the same topics being discussed, you’re not seeing the same facts … it’s just an entirely different world.”
John Aldrich, Pfizer, Inc./Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. university distinguished professor of political science, explored some of the inaccuracies in polls this election cycle. He suggested that complications in identifying likely voters and shy Trump voters—those who do not disclose their intention to vote for Trump to friends, family and pollsters—made polling difficult.