SCSU Political Science department prepares students for election night

A promotional image sent out by the School of Public Affairs via email to promote the Q&A. Photo courtesy of the School of Public Affairs.

SCSU political science professors Jim Cottrill, Jason Lindsay, and Kathleen Uradnik hosted a virtual Q&A seminar on Nov. 2 over Zoom to discuss the presidential election and answer student questions about it.

The seminar comes only one day before the general election on Nov. 3, where voters across the country will decide the outcome of not only the presidential election, but numerous Senate and House races as well.

Each professor was given a segment to address their primary concerns and what they thought students should know going into election night.

How to make sure your vote is counted

Cottrill warned that if you plan on voting by absentee ballot, you should not do so by mail because your ballot may not be received in time for it to be counted.

“If you are taking an absentee ballot somewhere, I would not mail it today because the courts have ruled that if it gets there late, they’re not going to count it,” said Cottrill. “So there is no way that your mail-in ballot is going to arrive in time at this point. You should take [your ballot] and deliver it directly.”

Will we know the results of the election on election night?

Cottrill also said that it is likely we won’t know the winner of the election on election night because of high voter turnout and state laws pertaining to mail-in ballots.

“In this case it’s going to be particularly hard because there’s a lot of states that have so many mail-in ballots, and their state laws say they can’t count them early,” said Cottrill. “There’s a high likelihood we will not know who the winner of the election is, maybe even until Thursday or Friday.”

Same day voter registration

Should you choose to vote in person, Minnesota has same day voter registration, so you can participate even if you hadn’t registered to vote in the days before the election.

“You’ll go to your assigned polling place where you live, bring some form of ID … a driver’s license, a utility bill, something like that to prove where you live,” said Uradnik.

Uradnik also warned against using student apartment leases because it doesn’t prove you live in the area.

“Try to get something like a utility bill, a telephone bill, or something that shows that you’re paying a bill in the place that you live,” said Uradnik. “A student ID is also considered proof of residence.”

Misinformation on social media

A lot of information will be exchanged during election week, primarily on social media. That opens up the possibility of widespread disinformation, according to Lindsey.

“It’s really important to keep in mind, especially as we go into this week [that] we might have really delayed election results,” said Lindsey. “There are these public relation firms now that actually set up what look like local newspaper websites … they then have people they pay to run social media accounts … [that] link back to these news stories that have been written on these webpages.”

Lindsey then warns of seeing social media post that sound “unbelievable” and “outrageous,” might just be as they sound.

Will one of the candidates declare victory early on?

There is a good chance that either Trump or Biden will declare victory before the race is called by news outlets, and those declarations should be viewed with strong skepticism, warned Cottrill, citing Bush in the 2000 election as an example.

“You will have probably one or more of the candidates declaring victory before there is actual data to support that yet, particularly if the early results favor a particular candidate,” said Cottrill. “[A candidate] might want to rush and paint a narrative that they are already the winner. Because then, if that seed is planted in the voter’s minds, then it becomes an established narrative.”

If you intend to vote in person, voting buses will be taking students to their local polling place every 30 minutes on Election Day starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m. between Atwood Memorial Center and Garvey Commons.

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Brendan Janostin

Brendan Janostin is a Mass Communications major with with a focus on Journalism and a minor in Political Science.  Currently, he is the news editor of the University Chronicle.  He enjoys fighting games, Star Trek, political analysis, and watching bad movies with his friends.

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