She carefully planned a five-hour drive to the polling place in her Tennessee hometown to vote on Election Day. She considered the traffic, the weather, the surging coronavirus pandemic and — something she never imagined having to contemplate — the possibility of civil unrest in the aftermath of an American election.
The last four years have delivered so many shocks that anything seemed possible to Lacey Stannard, the wife of a soldier. She had tried to get an absentee ballot sent to her home on a military base on the other side of the state. But the clerk in her hometown refused. A part of her thought it was crazy to drive 10 hours roundtrip to cast a Democratic vote in deep-red Tennessee, but a larger part thought it was worth it to register her displeasure.
Many Americans who lined up before dawn to vote on Election Day are exhausted from constant crises, uneasy because of volatile political divisions and anxious about what will happen next. Like those who cast ballots early, their agony is not in deciding between President Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Most made that choice long ago. Instead, those voting in record numbers say basic democratic foundations feel suddenly brittle: Will their vote count? Will the loser accept the result? Will the winner find a way to repair a fractured, sick and unsettled nation?
Stannard, a 28-year-old mother of two, hit the road Monday evening to arrive at the polls early on Election Day, only to turn around and rush home before an uncertain conclusion might aggravate a nation already on edge — fear she blames on the president’s penchant for pitting people against each other.
“When the election results start trickling in, I would rather be safe at home, which is sad because never in my life... would I have thought I have to hurry up and vote and get home so that I wouldn’t have to be fearful,” she said. “Which is one of the reasons I’m driving five hours to vote because I shouldn’t have to feel that way.”
Across the country, Americans say the stress of this election has made them physically ill. Others have obsessively tracked polls to soothe their nerves, or bought guns, or researched moving abroad, or retreated to a cabin in the woods. Tension has ratcheted up, as each side believes the other is threatening to usher in the end of America as we know it.
On Tuesday morning in the critical battleground suburbs of Detroit, 57-year-old Karama Mishkoor and her daughter planned to vote, go to work and immediately head home.
“Please, please, please don’t go anywhere else,” Mishkoor begged her daughter, 24-year-old Ashley.