At 7 p.m. Tuesday the polling places in Chicago will close, but that doesn’t mean voters will know who the next president will be or the results of many other local races any time soon.
There is also concern about how the electorate will react to the results, especially of the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden.
In anticipation of potential unrest and safety for the standing president, White House officials are planning to install a “non-scalable” fence around the entirety of the property, including Lafayette Square and The Ellipse, two park spaces directly north and south of the White House, according to CNN. Many protestors flocked to Lafayette Square to protest following the murder of George Floyd in May, and Washington D.C. police are preparing for unrest in the city, especially if a president can’t be swiftly and reliably announced.
In the days leading up to the election, Trump has declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he believes that the results are fraudulent due to an overwhelming number of mail-in votes, according to an article in The Guardian.
Biden has suggested the military would ensure a peaceful transfer of power if Trump loses and refuses to leave office after the election, according to the article.
The Guardian also reported that “U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, selected last year by Trump as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has been adamant about the military staying out of the way if there is a contested ballot.”
Locally, Columbia College Chicago sent a collegewide email Monday informing students of supportive services and added security following the stressful election.
“Columbia’s Safety and Security team will closely monitor the campus and neighborhood environment prior to, on and after Election Day in the event that some off-campus gatherings and demonstrations are not peaceful,” the email stated. “Security is adding extra personnel and is in communication with the City of Chicago’s emergency operations center regarding necessary coordination and response.”
The staff of Counseling Services and Student Relations will be available throughout the week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, the email stated. It also guided students to additional support from self-care groups on campus, some of which are hosting meetings online.
“The campaign, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of familiar routines and personal interactions, has been polarizing and, for some, emotionally stressful,” the email stated. “It is therefore especially important at this time for the members of the Columbia community to be mindful of their own physical and emotional well-being, as well as that of others.”
“I think there could be some violence after this election,” said David Berner, an associate professor in the Communication Department at Columbia College Chicago and a longtime reporter for WBBM radio. Berner’s “Covering Politics” class is leading election night coverage on WCRX, Columbia’s radio station.
WCRX will host three hours of election night coverage Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., but will also host rolling coverage over the following weeks depending on how long it takes to decide the outcome of the election.
Delmarie Cobb, a longtime Democratic political strategist, said she was more concerned about how Trump supporters would react if Trump were to lose than she was about how Biden supporters were to react if their candidate was defeated.
She described the election as “absolutely” one of the most racially charged she has witnessed since she began working as a political consultant in 1988 when she was on the staff of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign.
Cobb’s father worked for the Cook County Board of Elections and was a precinct captain in the Bronzeville neighborhood where Cobb grew up and has lived for 50 years.
Despite the focus on the presidential race, Cobb urged voters to look at the entire ballot, including the proposed graduated income tax amendment and the race for Cook County state’s attorney.
“You have to go down the entire ballot because the local elections are the ones that affect your life every day,” Cobb said.