Political Science Professors Present Virtual Event “Election 2020: The Day After”

Jacob DeCarli '22, Senior Reporter

As votes continued to be counted in crucial swing states, two Dickinson College political science professors hosted an event to share their thoughts on the close Presidential race. As of Thursday evening, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have not been called, according to 270toWin.  

The event, hosted via Zoom, drew in an audience of 40 Dickinson community members, including students, professors, and alumni. 

Donna Bickford, director of the Women’s and Gender Resource Center, opened the event and introduced the two professors: Kathryn Heard, assistant professor of Political Science, and Sarah Niebler, associate professor of Political Science. The two professors explained their thoughts on the ongoing election, followed by a question-and-answer session from the audience. 

Niebler discussed the high voter-turnout rate this election and predicted it to surpass the turnout of 2008 and possibly 1960. However, she explained that higher voter-turnout did not solely benefit Democrats, as they failed to gain a landslide in the Presidential race. 

Additionally, Niebler described the state of polling in the U.S. as “in turmoil” due to the growing public distrust of polls. However, she explained that she still trusts polling due to current results falling within the margin-of-error of most polls. 

Heard, on the other hand, highlighted the discourse around legal procedures of counting the votes, specifically the mail-in and absentee votes of swing states. Heard said that this process created a “…renewed interest in Congress accessing its Constitutional authority as to how to count votes.”

Apart from her perspectives as a political scientist, Heard shared her personal thoughts on the election. “There’s an element of sadness, but there are good things happening,” Heard said, highlighting the increased number of LGBTQ people and people of color elected to state and federal government.

During the question-and-answer session, Heard answered student questions regarding President Trump’s request for a recount of ballots in Wisconsin, where former VP Joe Biden held a final lead of .6 percent. However, Heard noted that Biden’s 20,000 lead in votes is a large number for Trump and his campaign to make up in a recount. 

Niebler answered questions regarding the importance of local government and elections. “Democracy is not an every four-year thing we do,” Niebler said and highlighted the importance of voting in local elections. Additionally, Heard said that voting, specifically in-person voting, creates a sense of community and can translate to local activism. 

The event concluded with a brief discussion between the two professors about potential reforms to the electoral college in the future. 

Attendees shared positive remarks about the event. Michelle Fisher, visit programs and services manager, said that she found the event “very informative but also comforting.”

“Professor Niebler provided great insight into the process as a whole, which was greatly appreciated,” said Fisher. 

Kari Tellis ’22 appreciated the perspectives of the professors. “Amidst all the chaos of the 2020 election, I was able to find some solace in the Dickinson community,” Tellis said. She continued that the, “[P]rofessors’ thoughts were helpful in getting a better grasp of what is going on in this election.” 

“Election 2020: The Day After” took place on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 pm. The event was Sponsored by the Office of Equity & Inclusivity and the Center for Civic Learning and Action.