Insights from political analyst Wendy Schiller


PROVIDENCE – Take a deep breath and relax. With those words, Brown University Prof. Wendy Schiller began a Zoom webinar about politics, at the Miriam Hospital Women’s Association’s meeting on Oct. 14. 

Despite the deeply contentious campaign season, Schiller reassured the audience, “we are a long-standing democracy that has experienced its share of disputed elections and upheaval, [and] we will once again endure.”

So, what exactly made this year’s election different from all others? According to Professor Schiller, gradual changes in voting practices, the COVID-19 pandemic and protests that are taking place daily across the nation added up to making it difficult to name a winner on election night. Other factors that were likely to add to a delay in naming a winner included heavy mail voting, high voter turnout and late voting in Hawaii.

And then there is the electoral vote. While the Electoral College was created to serve as a type of checks and balances, it too has changed over the years, as state procedures and laws have changed. While the Constitution doesn’t require electors to follow their state’s popular vote, many states’ laws do. This past summer, the Supreme Court ruled that those state laws are constitutional – electors in these states must respect the vote tally and follow their state’s popular vote. 

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ROBIN KAUFFMAN is co-chair for programming of the Miriam Hospital Women’s Association.