Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A Polling location in Alice Hook House on Election Day 2020.

November 4, 2020

Election 2020: Live Updates

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Check out all of The Sun’s election coverage here.

Click here to see where and how Cornellians can vote, and click here to see the candidates on the ballot in Tompkins County.

Election Day is here, and an anxious Cornell campus has all eyes turned toward a few key swing states that will decide the presidential race.

Tompkins County saw high turnout for early voting, and is anticipating high participation in this high-stakes election. We’ll update this page as results from local elections come in — polls in New York closed at 9 p.m, and the Associated Press immediately called the state for Joe Biden.

NYT calls Congressional race for Reed

The New York Times called the race for Congress in New York’s 23rd District for Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Reed had 63 percent of the vote to Mitrano’s 35.8 percent, with about 79 percent of ballots counted.

Read: Tom Reed Defeats Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95 in N.Y.-23 Congressional Race

State Assembly Race Still in Limbo, While Most Ithaca Reps Keep Seats

Local officials running for County Judge, City Judge and District Attorney appeared to all retain their seats Tuesday night. All the races were called or uncontested except for the local contest for New York State Assembly, in which Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles (D-2nd District) held a significant lead.

While the State Senate race for the 58th district hasn’t been officially called yet, one local news outlet called the race for incumbent State Sen. Tom O’Mara’s (R-N.Y.). Currently, with 227 out of 247 precincts reported, O’Mara has earned 59.23 percent of the vote, with his Democratic opponent, Leslie Danks Burke, at 36.99 percent.

Read: State Assembly Race Still in Limbo, While Most Ithaca Reps Keep Seats

Tom Reed declares victory in N.Y.-23 race

Rep. Tom Reed declared victory around 11 p.m. Tuesday in his race against Democratic challenger Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95. A few minutes before midnight, he led, 61.7 percent to 37.1 percent, with about 71 percent of votes counted.

With an estimated 58 percent of votes reported at 11 p.m., Reed, the incumbent, had a commanding lead. But in Tompkins County, with an estimated 29 percent of the vote in, Mitrano was getting 87.9 percent of the vote.

Mitrano blasted Reed for prematurely declaring victory.

“Now I know that [Reed] would prefer not to have Tompkins County in this district, but I’m afraid that it is a part of the 23rd and with 70 percent of it yet to report today’s results and 40,000 absentee ballots outstanding, that declaration was premature,” Mitrano told The Sun.

Races we’re watching

House of Representatives: N.Y.-23
In New York’s 23rd Congressional District, Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican, is facing a second straight challenge from Democrat Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95. Reed won by 8.4 points in 2018. FiveThirtyEight gives Reed a 98 percent chance of winning in the safe Republican district. A poll in late September found Reed up by seven points.

COVID-19 cleaning supplies inside a polling location on Election Day 2020.

Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

COVID-19 cleaning supplies inside a polling location on Election Day 2020.

Read: Days Before Election, New York’s 23rd Congressional Candidates Make Final Case for Office

Read: In Home Stretch of a 3-Year Race, Reed and Mitrano Spar on Policing

Read: The Pandemic Pushes Rep. Tom Reed’s Caucus to the Forefront — and the Campaign to the Background

Read: She Calls Her Opponent a ‘Racist,’ He Calls Her a ‘Radical’: Catching Up With Tracy Mitrano J.D. ’95

New York State Senate: District 58
Republican Sen. Tom O’Mara is facing off against Democratic challenger Leslie Danks Burke. In 2018, O’Mara won 59.2 percent of the vote against Amanda Kirchgessner. The district includes Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties, and a portion of Tompkins County, including Ithaca.

In a Nov. 3 night press conference, Danks Burke made a commitment to ensuring mail-in ballots are counted, meaning that it could take at least seven days for the election to officially be called. 

“This election won’t be declared until every vote is counted and every citizen’s voice is heard,” Danks Burke said.

Read: State Senate Candidates Spar and Share Sides During Debate

Read: State Senator Tom O’Mara Makes Case for Sixth Term

Read: Old Foes, New Circumstances: Leslie Danks Burke Vies for N.Y. State Senate

New York State Assembly: District 125
Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles (D-2nd District) is running against Republican Matthew McIntyre. Democrat Barbara Lifton has represented the district since 2003.

District Attorney
Incumbent Matthew Van Houten, a Democrat, is running unopposed after fighting off a progressive primary challenger.

County Court Judge
John C. Rowley is running unopposed.

City Court Judge
Seth Peacock is running unopposed.

Cornellians in Congress
Thirteen Cornell alumni are running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ithaca Election Day
Election Day meant a 5 a.m. start for poll workers — for a day filled with uncertainties.

But strong early voting numbers — over 13,000 in Tompkins County — led to shorter lines and calmer days than other election years.

“This is the most important election, possibly, of my life,” poll worker Natalie Breitkopf ’22 said, standing in the 31-degree weather outside Alice Cook House. “I wanted to be able to tell my kids and my grandkids that I was a poll worker.”

Read: Early Voting Leads to Quiet Election Day, Volunteers Say

Ithaca saw a dusting of snow on Monday, the night before Election Day.

Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Ithaca saw a dusting of snow on Monday, the night before Election Day.

On Campus

Uncertainties remain through election night
As votes trickled in, students across campus kept their eyes on the election results. While doing readings and problem sets, they felt the weight of the election and reflected on its implications for their identities.

Without watch parties, Cornellians huddled with housemates around computers and television screens, bracing through push notifications and live news broadcasts in between prelim study sessions and problem sets.

“This election feels like this heavy weight on our shoulders. There’s the future of democracy,” said Madeline Lei ’23, from her Keeton House lounge.“Why does the plasma membrane matter right now?”

“I am very anxious right now, but it’s also like, what can you do,” Lei said. “There’s a lot at stake. I was planning on staying up really late, but I might go to sleep early. It is what it is at this point.”

Read: On Election Night, Students Eye Results Through Nail-Biter Presidential Race

Read: As Election Remains Uncertain, International Students Express Anxiety Over Results

Read: Students of Color Recount First-Time Voting Experiences

Anxious students prepare for election
On the eve of Election Day, the semester’s first snowfall left campus hushed. Like the day’s gray clouds, anxiety hung over students as they braced for what may be an election like no other.

While studying for her U.S. Latino history class in the lounge of her Balch Hall dormitory, Axaraly Ortiz ’24 said it was difficult to focus on school on Election Day’s eve.

“I feel like I’ve just been distracted by school so much lately,” she said. “And until today it hasn’t hit me how much is at stake.”

Read: Between Prelims and COVID Tests, Students Weigh Election Stress

A look back at how a stunned campus reacted to Trump’s 2016 victory
Fear and shock gripped Cornell’s campus when President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. In the days that followed, members of a stunned student body gathered in solidarity and held “cry-in” events responding to the surprise result.

On the eve of the 2020 election, students are even more on edge. Trump’s Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, is again the favorite — this time by a wider margin in national polls. In Washington, D.C. and New York City, businesses and city officials are preparing for unrest as a polarized country braces for an election whose winner isn’t likely to be known on Tuesday night.

Unlike in 2016, Cornellians — nearly all of whom were in high school when Trump was elected — know what they’re getting with the president. Instead of worries about what might happen under Trump, Cornellians have already endured four years to inform what four more years would mean.

Read: How a Shocked Cornell Campus Responded to the 2016 Election

Most Cornellians had votes cast, despite complications
Joining national trends of higher-than-usual absentee and early voting, most Cornellians had voted when The Sun interviewed them around campus on Election Day.

But getting their votes counted was no easy feat, especially for students from Pennsylvania. There, more than 3 million requested ballots bombarded the state — and party officials  inundated courts with requests to rule on cases regarding the election.

Voting, for these students, meant constant calls to county election offices, postal service mishaps and even an Ithaca semester cut short to go home and vote.

Read: Students From Pennsylvania Face Mail-in Vote Challenges

Read: On Election Day, Most Cornellians Have Already Voted. Here’s What They Have to Say.

Some professors cancel class on Election Day
Cornell classes were in session on Tuesday, but some professors decided to cancel sessions or make them optional.

“Often, students want to know what they can do to address the inequality they see and learn about in the country,” said Prof. Anna Haskins, sociology, who didn’t hold class on Tuesday. “One way to do that is to vote in elected officials that stand for the values, platforms and policies that speak to them. In a presidential election year, it seemed right to give students the time to go and vote.”

Read: Without University Policy, Professors Decide the Fate of Election Day Classes

Citing barriers to voting, S.A. calls for University Holiday
The Student Assembly joined student body presidents from 22 universities to urge their respective institutions to designate future election days as official university holidays.

“We should not be allowing students’ ability to vote or not vote to be determined by the leniency or generosity of individual professors,” S.A. President Cat Huang ’21 said. “It’s our responsibility and obligation as engaged citizens to vote, and Cornell administration should support its students and community members by declaring Election Day a University holiday.”Read: S.A. Calls for Cornell to Make Election Day a Holiday