“Just want it over with”: UMD students stress as election winner remains unknown

Signs for Joe Biden and Donald Trump compete for attention outside of Xfinity Center on Nov. 3, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

Jill Scott has had trouble sleeping.

Anxiety and a constantly buzzing phone have kept Scott, a senior anthropology major at the University of Maryland, awake as uncertainty about the results of the presidential election remains.

The winner of the election remains unknown, as an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots delay vote counts in key swing states, including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona. 

“I want to wake up and check, wake up and check if we have a president and wake up and check if there’s a bunch of votes being recounted or, you know, Pennsylvania went to Trump, or Pennsylvania went to Biden, or Nevada went to Biden, or Arizona went to Trump,” said Scott, president of this university’s College Republicans. 

As of Thursday night, former Vice President Joe Biden was just 6 electoral votes from victory, holding slim margins in Nevada and closing in on Trump in Georgia and Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press. And although The AP has called Arizona for Biden, other organizations such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have not.

A “red mirage” on election night showed President Donald Trump leading initially in key swing states, but a “blue wave” of mail-in vote counts decimated the president’s lead to just over 18,000 in Pennsylvania and less than 2,000 in Georgia early Friday morning, according to The AP. 

Officials in the aforementioned states and North Carolina have not made clear when they will announce a winner.

Scott said her lack of sleep will likely continue if court cases extend the election for weeks, a plausible scenario regardless of when a winner is declared.

Ben Baitman, a senior economics and government and politics major, doesn’t want the election in court.

“People are just tired, I’m tired, [I] just want it over with,” said Baitman, who works as the director of governmental affairs for the university’s Student Government Association.

Baitman kept up with election night developments on NPR during his car ride home from Philadelphia after assisting with the Biden campaign. For someone so invested in campaign politics, he’s been relatively removed from election news. 

He’s the one his friends turn to for updates, for his opinion and, recently, for hope –– which he said he’s been able to provide to a degree.

“Whether it’s a front I’m putting on for myself, who knows? But I think I’ve done a good job of placating a few of them the past 36 hours or whatever,” he said.

[One for the history books: Local voters cast ballots at UMD on Election Day]

He’s less disturbed by the wait for counting, which he expected — it’s the president’s calls for counting to halt that terrify him. Trump called for all vote counting to stop in a tweet Thursday, and in a press conference, he baselessly claimed that “illegal votes” were responsible for the recent surge in Democratic votes.

“I think the biggest thing is Trump out there saying we need to stop counting, we need to do all these undemocratic things, and then literally yesterday having his supporters in Phoenix with guns and in Detroit disrupting vote counting,” he said. 

He’s been asleep by midnight and hasn’t watched much television since Tuesday. He figured staying glued to the screen wouldn’t help anyone, especially himself.

Gabrielle Coleman, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, has also limited herself. She placed time caps on her Instagram and Twitter accounts that will lock her out after five hours of use. She’s yet to exceed the time limit.

Coleman, who is the North Hill representative for the SGA, is worried about how tensions following the election may impact Black communities, especially in Prince George’s County, where she lives, and nearby Washington, D.C. She’s concerned about her social life, too, and is thinking of canceling her Sunday brunch plans in fear that violence may break out. 

Despite bearing the weight of the times, she has to hit the books.

“I had an exam the day before Election Day, the day after Election Day and then I have one on Friday,” she said. “You’re expected to still function as if we’re in [a] normal scenario, on top of the fact that there’s a whole global pandemic. That’s kind of a lot. It definitely makes you anxious.”

[Prince George’s County is one of five Maryland jurisdictions facing vote count delays]

Price Fisher, communications director for UMD College Democrats, shares Coleman’s struggles. His ability to concentrate has slipped since election night, after which he didn’t fall asleep until 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“Since then, it’s been hard to focus on other things just because so much is up in the air and it’s so close. I want it to be over,” the senior government and politics major said, with a slight chuckle. “I hope it’s resolved in the next day or two because I have papers to write, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to focus on them.”

But for Wil Armstrong, a graduate finance student, the prolonged wait wasn’t surprising or concerning — he anticipated it would take a while to count the mail-in votes.

“I just knew I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it on Tuesday night,” he said. “I wasn’t gonna stay up till 3 a.m. just hoping for some sort of a miracle in terms of the counting speed.”

Meanwhile, Fisher went to bed earlier Wednesday night, and he said his bedtime Thursday would depend on when Pennsylvania released its next ballot count.

That’s life in election limbo.

Staff writer Madison Peek contributed to this story.

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