US/World

A Social Media Snapshot of the 2020 Election

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November 3rd marks election day in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden AFP / MANDEL NGAN

The lines began before the polls opened. The messages to go and vote were sent by Republican and Democrat alike.  And the back and forth over whether voters should wear masks stretched from Florida to Texas, from Georgia to Wisconsin.  In a few states, challenges to local counties' insistence on mask wearing ended up in the courts. The courts generally sided with the counties.

And a federal judge from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. ordered the U.S. Postal Service to make sure it got every uncounted ballot out of its facilities. 

Welcome to the 2020 election, in which nearly 100 million of us voted by mail, and only time will tell how many voted at the polls.   

As of mid afternoon ET, the election looked like this, courtesy of social media:

In Bucks County, outside Philadelphia, voters were treated to an early morning long line.

 


 

But long lines popped up everywhere. Brittany Brown, a reporter with Mississippi Today, shared a video of a line in Lafayette County. She reported that masking was not being required, but that poll workers were handing out masks, and many people came wearing their own. 

 


 

CNN reported lines in Wisconsin and Detroit before the polls opened, but that they moved quickly once people started voting. 

It wasn’t just normal people getting out on social media, politicians and celebrities alike were encouraging voting. “Today’s the day – grab a friend and go VOTE!”  messaged Senator Lindsey Graham on Twitter. This encouragement was met with mixed reactions in comments and retweets. Some commenters said they’d voted for Graham and wished him well, while others gleefully shared that they had voted for his opponent, Jaime Harrison.  

Besides the presidential election, 35 senate seats up for election and 435 are open in the House of Representatives. 

The President started his day with a tweet, sharing voting information, state by state.  Former Vice President Joe Biden, his opponent, was also on Twitter, encouraging voting and informing followers about accessibility at the polls. 

 


 

Mr. Biden wasn’t the only one sharing information. Citizen.org tweeted out, “If you're in line when polls close today, stay in line. You can still cast your ballot."

The fear of misinformation being spread over the myriad platforms prompted Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube to issue warnings. They did so before today. 

Twitter ensured its followers that the election results would be reported factually. “People on Twitter, including candidates for office, may not claim an election win before it is authoritatively called,”  Twitter wrote on its blog. “Tweets which include premature claims will be labeled and will direct people to our official US election page.” Twitter will also add a warning label to election-related tweets that are misleading. 

Instagram will only show top posts instead of top and recent posts.  “Recent posts from all hashtags may be temporarily hidden to help prevent the spread of possible false information and harmful content related to the 2020 US election."

People are turning out to vote in record numbers.

Some shared more helpful advice, namely that if someone is in line when the polling place closes, they can still vote. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "If the polls close while you’re still in line, stay in line – you have the right to vote."  By the afternoon, Trending on Twitter was “STAY IN LINE” mirroring the ACLU’s advice

On Twitter, @JaysFanJordan, a surgeon according to his bio, shared his unofficial polling data earlier in the day.

 


 

By later afternoon, tweets had turned to prior elections,  such as #StillWithHer in support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, with over 5,000 tweets, and to faraway places, like Antarctica.  

The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a joke electoral map, showing all of the world in red except for Mexico, California, China, India, Cuba, New York State, Liberia, and Antarctica. The inclusion of Antarctica especially attracted a few tweets, including images of marching polar bears, ice boreholes, and a fabulously plumed penguin.

 


 

 


 

 

Sabrina Emms is a science journalist. She got her start as an intern at a health and science podcast out of Philadelphia public radio. Before that she worked as a researcher, looking at the way bones are formed. When out of the lab and away from her computer, she's moonlighted as a pig vet's assistant and a bagel baker.

 

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