Dixville Notch, N.H. has a unique Election Day tradition.
When the clock strikes midnight on Nov. 3, local media and residents cram into a small but meaningful space. The room is plastered with American flags — some lining the tables placed in the middle, others acting as curtains for the windows.
Food spreads are essential — a staple for any small town gathering.
It’s been that way for 60 years.
Placed in the corner of “The Ballot Room,” behind town officials, is a big, wooden board, with a phrase across the top that Dixville Notch surely takes pride in.
“First in the Nation”
Dixville Notch, along with two other small New Hampshire communities, is typically the first to cast their ballots in the presidential election. The gathering was much smaller this year due to coronavirus concerns. Nonetheless, the event signified the beginning of one of the most important elections in recent American history.
What happened in the following three days did not necessarily come as a surprise, but was no less embarrassing to a country founded on the premise of democracy.
Americans understand the weight this election holds. Already, there have been more voters than the 2016 election. The Washington Post projects a 66.4 percent voter turnout, which would be the largest, dating back to the election of 1900.
It was seen even before election day. The U.S. Elections Project reported that over 101 million Americans voted early.
The first polls closed around 7 p.m. on Tuesday and results started to roll in. It was a pretty tight race at the start, to the delight of Republicans. States that seemed like a lock for Biden were turning red.
Standing in front of a packed crowd in the East Room of the White House, President Donald Trump prematurely declared victory in his first address to the American people during the election. Additionally, Mr. Trump claimed that Democrats were trying to “steal the election.”
“Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” he said in a tweet.
He’d been foreshadowing for months that mail-ins ballots and the Democratic party were going to cause a rigged election. It wasn’t a matter of if Mr. Trump would make these claims — it was when.
This tweet, along with 11 other tweets in the span of four days were labeled as misinformation.
On the other hand, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed the American people. He remained optimistic, but did not declare victory, saying “we believe we are on track to win this election.”
It's not my place or Donald Trump's place to declare the winner of this election. It's the voters' place.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 4, 2020
As the morning of Nov. 4 hit, a lot of the election was still undecided. This was to be expected, as the abundance of mail-in ballots require more time to arrive at the counting centers. As long as the ballot is postmarked on or before election day, the vote is eligible to be counted, regardless of the day it arrives at the counting center.
Still, the extra time only adds more stress to Americans anxiously awaiting concrete results.
It was clear, at this point, that those results would require more than one sleepless night.
As mail-in ballots started to filter in, Biden started to overtake the states he was expected. Michigan and Wisconsin, two critical swing states that President Trump won in 2016, started to flip blue, a big development for the Biden campaign.
Once that happened, President Trump officially made his first formal request to stop counting the votes, filing lawsuits for Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt. They were denied.
Once it was determined that Biden would win Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, President Trump filed for a recount, claiming irregularities in several counties.
Statement from @BillStepien on Wisconsin recount request: pic.twitter.com/6YiNB8HRo6
— Tim Murtaugh (@TimMurtaugh) November 4, 2020
The recount requires a petition and legal fees in order to go into effect, and won’t occur until the beginning of December at the earliest.
Michigan was eventually called in favor of Biden, but President Trump falsely claimed it for himself on Twitter, along with Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina (states that were largely undecided at that point).
Five states remained on Wednesday night to be called: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina.
Biden sat at 253 electoral votes, President Trump at 214.
Mr. Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania, once as large as 700,000 votes, was starting to dwindle. Nevada and Arizona favored Biden. President Trump had a firm lead in North Carolina, while his lead in Georgia was razor thin.
While Mr. Trump continued to assert the election was rigged and to stop counting votes, Biden was adamant that every vote be counted. Mail-ins continued to flow.
“Every vote must be counted. No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever,” he wrote in a tweet.
Thursday was no less stressful. No concrete progress was made in terms of electoral votes, but Wednesday’s trends continued. President Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania was essentially gone — Georgia was not far behind.
He ranted on Twitter and published a statement in all-caps as a response to his slipping numbers:
“IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION! IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!”
At 11:02 a.m. President Trump again claimed a victory in Pennsylvania, with much of the votes still left to count.
After all that, he held a news conference at 6:30 that evening. He called the American democracy into question.
“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election. They’re trying to rig an election and we can’t let that happen,” he said in reference to the Democratic party.
It came to a point where major news networks cut away from his address because the President kept claiming, with no proof, that the election was being stolen from him.
While all this was occurring, Biden remained steadfast in his message to allow democracy to do its job in a series of tweets throughout the day:
“The people will not be silenced, be bullied, or surrender.”
“No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever.”
“I ask people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed.”
“Democracy is sometimes messy, so sometimes it requires a little patience.”
Just before 5 a.m. on Friday morning, Georgia flipped blue. Pennsylvania followed roughly four hours later. Biden still holds leads in Arizona and Nevada, while President Trump could lock up North Carolina soon. Pennsylvania will be the decider, however. If President Trump loses Pennsylvania, he likely loses the election. Biden still has a path to victory via Nevada and Arizona even if President Trump takes Pennsylvania.
As it stands currently, Joe Biden has a chance at clinching the presidency on Friday.