Booths, Ballots, and Elections! Oh my!

By Bryan Lavoie '22, Emma Bickford '22 | November 3, 2020

AP Photo by Ed Reinke, Oct. 17, 2000

Our virtual exhibit, Booths, Ballots, and Elections! Oh, My! took a look at some unusual examples and invited viewers to consider parallels to the 2020 Presidential Election.

A look back at the 1918 election reveals a similar narrative of masks and pandemic that caused voters’ experience to look different than it had in the past. In 2020, mail in voting has increased, and masks will be worn at in person polling locations. Although both of these years presented unique ways for citizens to be involved in the democratic process, people turned out and are coming out in support of their candidate to contribute to the ever-changing narrative of the American story.

We also had the chance to learn more about the history of third-party candidates and write-in campaigns. Many Americans today are faced with a very basic choice for who they want to vote for in a presidential election. Do they vote Democrat or Republican? Take for instance, Ross Perot’s 1996 bid for President under the Reform Party, which won him 8.4% of the vote. And, prior to his creation of the Reform Party, Ross Perot ran in 1992 as an independent candidate and gained almost 20% of the national popular vote.

Or perhaps, voters write in their candidate of choice. Examples found by looking back to 1956, 1964, and 1972 elections, we see an improbable New Hampshire Presidential Primary victory and record-breaking write-in votes.

Finally, we take a look at the 2000 election, one of the closest elections in the history of the United States, settled by the Supreme Court.

Thirty-six days after the 2000 election, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision split along party lines, the recounts in Florida violated the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not providing equal protection under the law. They found there was not a uniform method of recounting ballots, which would be unfair to a specific candidate. Thus, the recounts were halted, and the state of Florida’s electoral votes went to George W. Bush, therefore winning him the presidency by a tight margin of 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266 votes.

The many variables involved with mail-in voting, leaves us wondering if the 2020 election will have a clear outcome on election night. We can hope it doesn’t take as long as the 2000 election, but we cannot be certain. Only time will tell.