Leibo At Large: Election 2020 aftermath taught us a few things

Color image of unidentifiable persons voting in booths at a polling station, during elections.

By david leibowitz

Even before the race for president was official, you could learn some early lessons from Election 2020.

Like: Our need for immediate gratification conflicts deeply with our need for election accuracy.

Every election cycle is a journey that takes four years. The cycle culminates in millions of pieces of paper marked with dozens of selections.

It should not be mystifying that it takes a few days to total those pieces of paper with zero errors.

The ranks of the impatient will scream absurdities like, “If Chick-fil-A was counting this, it would have been done in an hour.” This isn’t whipping up a sandwich and waffle fries, people.

This is thousands of jurisdictions counting millions of ballots in thousands of races under extreme pressure.

If we want the count to be correct—a premise many Americans seem to want only when the count goes their way—then we should give elections officials around the country a break.

If a once-every-four-years presidential election takes, say, four days to tabulate, you’d think we might control ourselves for that brief interval.

We also learned stupid people will do stupid things and elections bring out the dummies.

On Wednesday night after Election Day, hundreds of angry pro-Trump folks gathered to protest outside the Maricopa County vote tabulation center downtown—and even tried to force their way inside.

Naturally, an angry crowd of anti-Trump folks showed up for a tense standoff policed by sheriff’s deputies in SWAT gear. Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Stupid, showed up to add to the clown show.

The mob’s big concern? That we “count every vote!” Which is exactly what elections workers were doing inside the building at the time.

What next, an angry mob outside McDonald’s demanding they make burgers and fries?

Speaking of pointless, it’s time for the media to stop calling races. On Election Eve, the Associated Press and Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden while the other networks and CNN did not. This led to widespread confusion and finger pointing.

This is great for the media, who love a dumpster fire, but not great for voters or democracy, which the media claims to serve.

Calling a race serves no official function and has no legal bearing; it simply exists to serve journalists’ need for suspense and to give reporters a chance to feel super important on election night.

Every race call is a prediction—a sophisticated prediction, sure—but still only as good as the underlying math about voter turnout, geography, political preference and human behavior.

Football broadcasters could “call” the Super Bowl early, too, and likely be almost perfect. But the games still get played to the final whistle and election workers still tabulate every ballot. If no one gets to call it quits, what’s the point of calling the race?

We also learned pollsters also are a generally useless bunch. To be fair, the pollsters in Arizona were nowhere near as wrong on the presidential race as pollsters in other states and those making national predictions.

Most Arizona pollsters gave Joe Biden a lead in the range of three or four points on their final polls.

As we know in hindsight, that was wrong—but it was within most polls’ margin of error. Clearly, there’s something pollsters don’t understand about today’s voter turnout and the behavior of Trump voters in particular.

As someone who has paid pollsters for campaigns I’ve run, I think they can help provide insight into trends and the impact of certain messages. But do I believe them like I do my bank balance or a thermometer? Hell no. And neither should you.