Chandler Gibson • Editor-in-Chief
The Talon got a couple of interesting emails last week, two, actually, and they made me think about the current political climate, and peoples’ beliefs around the election. These emails made a number of claims about the current election, despite the fact that the featured story in the newsletter was a new episode of The Screech, our weekly news roundup podcast.
Reading these emails, a kind of hate mail attempting to disprove widely-known facts about the electoral process and the current political landscape, I realized that while it would have been easy to fire back with a sarcastic and biting response that told them they were wrong, there was an opportunity for education here to cut through all the political noise.
This is The Patriot Talon’s Election FAQ.
These emails came from UT Tyler employees - faculty and staff - and therefore the names have been removed to protect their privacy. The content, however, has not been edited.
Both emails were sent to us by @uttyler.edu email addresses - University emails - making them public information under the Freedom of Information Act, the Texas Public Information Act and The University of Texas System’s own policies.
Just to clarify before moving forward, this is not to insult the senders of these emails, their intelligence or their beliefs. Their emails are an example of the larger misconceptions around the current election, and how cramming the process historically into one grand election night has not exposed the general public to the larger voting process, which is on full display this year due to the increase in mail-in voting.
This email makes a number of claims, and I’m going to break them down individually. Some of them are incorrect, and some are correct, but just need a little more context.
“NO MA’AM, MR. BIDEN DID NOT DEFEAT PRESIDENT TRUMP.”
Technically, yes, this is correct. It is the tradition of media outlets, like CNN, ABC, Fox, The New York Times, The Associated Press, to project the winner of each state, and therefore the electoral votes needed to win the election. The truth in their projections comes from the fact that they use real voting information from the states themselves, and interviews with people surrounding it (think, state-level Offices of the Secretaries of State).
They do not, however, certify the election, which is done by a federal agency, the General Services Administration. The GSA is currently under tremendous pressure by a bipartisan team, that is, Democrats and Republicans, to certify the election in favor of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, according to Politico.
Over 99% of the vote has been counted, and it’s not a very close election.
In fact, even at the time of the previous newsletter, when we received this email, the GSA was still under pressure to certify the election, which is generally done on or immediately after Election Night.
So, with the information from the states’ governments confirming the announcement, and the projections of almost every other news organization at the time, it more than meets our threshold of accuracy.
“THE LAW SAYS THE PRESIDENT MUST CONCEDE & PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS NOT CONCEDED AT THIS TIME.”
Actually, this is mostly false. There is no law requiring the President of the United States to concede his campaign.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, it’s just a tradition started in 1896 with then-candidate William Jennings Bryan sending a telegram to President-Elect William McKinley. No president since then, even during the 2000 election with Bush and Gore’s Supreme Court delay, has refused to concede.
It doesn’t affect the workings of the Electoral College, merely just a friendly tradition to signal the campaign is over.
As for the second part, that’s true. President Trump has not conceded. In fact, he has blatantly attacked the integrity of American democracy, calling this election a fraud, and frantically assuring us he won by millions of votes. Here’s an example, just from the other day.
It’s entirely possible that President Trump may never concede, will never admit publicly that he lost. He’s the candidate that ran his campaign on winning, and hating losers, so admitting defeat simply isn’t part of that brand.
“THE CONSTITUTION REQUIRES ELECTORS TO MEET IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATES & VOTE FOR PRESIDENT AND VP. THIS IS THEN SENT TO THE SENATE FOR A FINAL COUNT.”
This is pretty much true. Without getting into very much of the procedural dumpster fire that is the Electoral College, the electors are selected from within the respective parties, Democrat and Republican, generally, and they meet in their states, voting how the popular vote plays out.
Now, we have what is called a Winner-Take-All system, which means that if you win the popular vote in your state (unless you live in Nebraska or Maine, who use a different system) you win all of your state's electoral votes, according to information by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
For Texas, that would be 38. We have 36 representatives in the US House and 2 senators - so 38 electoral votes.
For the second part, it’s sent to all of Congress, not just the Senate. The House and Senate have to receive the certified election results by the fourth Wednesday of Dec. (which is Dec. 23, 2020 this year), and, according to The National Constitution Center, a special session of Congress is called on January 6th to do the final acceptance of the results.
This is mostly ceremonial, because there isn’t a likely situation where raising election issues to remove a state’s votes from the count would significantly affect the results.
Removing two or three states from Biden’s projected count still means he wins.
“SEVERAL STATES ARE STILL COUNTING ‘LEGAL’ BALLOTS OVER 5 MILLION BALLOTS AS A MATTER OF ‘FACT.’ AN ELECTION ‘FRAUD’ IS BEING LOOKED AT NOW.”
This is fragmentally true. While some states are still counting ballots (most states actually count ballots well after election day, we just don’t see it usually), the legality of these ballots is found to be generally agreed upon as being so.
I can’t speak to the five million legal ballots figure, because I’m not sure where that figure specifically came from, so that might be correct. I’m also unclear exactly in this context what constitutes a legal ballot versus an illegal one.
The election fraud element of this is the most interesting for me, because while the majority of the Republican Party (and even Rudy Guliani) have been echoing President Trump in his baseless claims of voter fraud, according to The Washington Post, the states, the federal government, and even major news organizations with robust investigation power have found no evidence of it. In fact, they all found the opposite.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” reads a Nov. 13 statement by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a subagency within the Department of Homeland Security.
In retaliation for his honesty, President Trump fired Chris Krebs, the security official leading the department that was created by one of Trump’s own executive orders.
“FINALLY, THIS ELECTION IS NOT OVER UNTIL GOD SAYS IT IS OVER.”
I’m not really sure how to address this one.
“THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO THE ‘FACTS’ AND NOT THE [HEARSAY] OF THE LEFT FAKE MEDIA. I WAS TAUGHT BY [UT TYLER] TO RESEARCH THE FACTS. HAVE A GREAT DAY.”
Maybe it’s the quotation marks throwing me, but I’m not sure if this is sarcasm or if this faculty member is literally calling college students “left fake media,” but I sure hope I get some “left fake media” money soon.
Have a great day, as well!
The next email was actually sent to me while I was working on a story only including the previous one, but it also brought up some really interesting points, as well.
“REGARDING THE FOLLOWING WRITING BY YOU OR YOUR STAFF I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT THAT THIS IS A MAJOR CONTESTED ELECTION AND THE TALON IS SHOWING GENUINE BIAS IN PROCLAIMING THIS AS FACT.”
The first part of this is right. It is a contested election, although the severity of the contestation is debatable. With a couple of recounts going currently or scheduled, the results aren’t finalized yet. Be that as it may, judges are ruling against or throwing out lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign relating to voter fraud and election issues due to a lack of evidence, as read in this article by The Hill, just as an example.
Here’s a small example by The New York Times.
As for the Talon showing bias, as previously stated, we are following in the footsteps of state and federal officials, and other major news organizations, CNN and Fox alike, who have called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
“THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DOES NOT CERTIFY RESULTS, THEY ONLY DABBLE IN PROBABILITIES.”
This is correct. As stated before, the General Services Administration certifies the results, triggering an Electoral College vote in December.
Ignoring the condescending use of “dabble,” major news organizations use information from a variety of sources to support their projections, including government officials, federal agencies, and campaign staff themselves. To say the mainstream media dabble in probabilities is like saying the president dabbles in combat strategy - there is much more nuance.
“KNOWING THERE WERE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH THE ACCURACY OF THE VOTING RECORDS I WOULD THINK THE TALON WOULD BE MORE PROFESSIONAL AND UNBIASED IN YOUR REPORTING AS WHAT YOU REPORTED IS DISENFRANCHISING AT LEAST THE OTHER 50% OF THE POPULACE, AND YOUR AUDIENCE.”
Let me start with the first part of this, talking about accuracy. There has been no evidence that there are any widespread instances of voter fraud, or nefarious issues with the voter records. There are currently recounts happening in Wisconsin and Georgia, and Biden’s lead appears to be increasing in both.
Secondly, I take personal offense when our professionalism is called into question. We take the utmost respect in our reporting, even when we didn’t even break the story. Or even write a story.
We do our best to report the facts and achieve the most accurate version of the truth as possible. We also respect objectivity, and we strive for it whenever we can. Most of us are going into journalism after this, and we take what we publish as seriously as if we had done it for a major news outlet.
Next, the truth is not, and let me be clear, is not disenfranchising. President Trump has created a culture where living in a false reality is not just okay, it’s admirable. Publishing well-established facts is inherently never exclusive. The truth affects everyone, whether you like it or not. It is not the role of the media, even student media, to report what people want to hear, it is our job to report the truth.
Also, universities trend liberal on social issues, according to numerous studies done by The Pew Research Center.
There was a Democratic Socialists Student Organization on this campus before there was a College Republicans club, so assuming that more than half of this school voted for President Trump when less than half of the voters in this election did is misguided.
“THIS IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR AN ELITE UNIVERSITY TO DELVE INTO THE PROBLEMS RAISED IN THE ELECTION AS OPPOSED TO A HEADLINE GRAB.”
Starting with the first part of this, there’s no evidence to suggest that UT Tyler as a whole is an elite university yet. According to US News and World Report, we rank just inside the top 400 schools in the country, and according to Niche.com, we’re barely inside the top 30 in Texas.
One ranking service has put our Nursing program at the top in the country, but one program can’t lift a whole university. Let me be clear: I love this school. I love UT Tyler and the experience I’ve had here, but by almost no metric is it considered a top university, much less elite.
Secondly, the problems raised in the election are not election fraud, of which there is no evidence, they are peoples’ fundamental misunderstanding of, or lack of willingness to understand the electoral process.
Finally, this was not intended as a headline grab, merely a way to preview a major story being mentioned in our news roundup.
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why Does the Election Process Take So Long?
This election isn’t necessarily taking any longer than any other election, but because of President Trump’s lack of concession, and the increase of mail-in voting, it feels like it is taking much longer than normal. Most people tune out once the election has been called, but due to The General Services Administration dragging its feet, and a number of baseless lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign, it hasn’t come to a complete end.
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College is a group of appointed individuals by the party that wins a state to act as representatives of the vote cast in the Winner-Take-All system. These representatives are appointed by their party, to cast a vote in favor of their party. For example, if the Republicans win Texas (like they did) then the electors are Republican, and cast Republican votes. If Democrats win Texas, then the electors are Democrat, and cast Democratic votes.
Why is a Concession Important?
Aside from being a crucial part of the integrity of American democracy, this signals that the campaign is over, and makes the transition between administrations more efficient. Once the GSA certifies the election in favor of one candidate, then the winning candidate gets access to national security briefings, office space in most government agencies, and millions of dollars to coordinate the transition and set up government computers.
Do you have any questions about the election or the electoral process? Is there anything in this story that needs more clarification? Anything we missed? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to answer it!