On the Eve of Election Day, Harvard Students Report Anxiety and Anticipation


Luke D. M. Albert ’22 has spent months trying to flip Arizona blue.

The state has sided with the Republican presidential candidate in every election for the last 24 years. Still, disappointing results aren’t the potential outcome keeping Albert up at night. He worries about post-election scenes more commonly associated with autocracies than the U.S.: “possible political violence from the president stoking it amongst his supporters” and the federal judiciary intervening to “cut off the counting of ballots,” to name a few.

“I’m just worried about interference with that process — with the democratic process and the election,” said Albert, who took the fall semester off to work virtually as a field organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party. “So definitely have a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear that sort of keeps me going. But focusing on my work is good, talking to voters is exciting, and I’m definitely very hopeful about the outcome we’re going to see here.”

Dispersed around the globe, Harvard’s majority-liberal student body has been left to grapple with anxiety and apprehension as tomorrow’s election approaches.


“I’m very stressed, very anxious,” said R. Elizabeth Hoveland ’22. “Very excited to not be stressed and anxious anymore.”

But, she added, “knowing that we probably won’t know the results on Tuesday is really scary.”

Michael Zhu ’22 also said he is unsettled by potential uncertainty in the days to come. The prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court deciding the election — as it did in 2000 when seven justices ruled to halt a crucial recount in Florida — is “very worrying,” he said.

“I wasn’t around for 2000, but everything I’ve read about it is that it was a complete dumpster fire of an election debacle — as much, or even more, than 2016 was,” Zhu said. “And so the idea that we’re hurtling towards something like that again is definitely very concerning.”

Hoveland has been working as a volunteer training captain for the Montana Democratic Coordinated Campaign while still enrolled at the College. Teaching fellows and professors at Harvard have been “super understanding” of her campaign commitments, she said.

“It really is a good symbiotic relationship that I wasn’t expecting,” she said. “But I think 2020 is such a unique year in so many of these aspects that people are a lot more understanding than if, say, I was doing this in 2018 or even 2016.”

In Montana, which voted for President Donald J. Trump by 20 points in 2016, Hoveland is focused on down-ballot races, including a closely-watched U.S. Senate campaign between Governor Steve Bullock and incumbent Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

“I am acting as if we’re down 20 points,” she said, although polling shows the Senate race to be within the margin of error. “I want to be able to keep working and keep the momentum going as if we’re losing, whether or not we are.”

Many undergraduates have worked on campaigns this cycle, even as most candidates organize virtually.

“The fact that many of us are living in our home communities and have exited the Harvard bubble, I think, just makes the political issues in this election so much more salient to us,” said Richard M. Sweeney ’21, who has informally helped involve Harvard students with the Biden campaign. “We’ve seen how the politics of today is quite literally tearing some of our communities apart. And being outside of the Harvard bubble and in our homes, I think, is motivating a lot of my peers to action.”

President Trump’s victory in 2016 halted academic work in many Harvard courses during the days after the election. This year, some courses have made scheduling adjustments in advance.

“I know after the election in 2016 it was really tough on a lot of students the day after,” Rick Li ’21, a Crimson Arts editor, said last week. “I could imagine that a lot of students might feel really isolated — not just on campus, but even wherever they live.”

Hoveland, the Montana Democrats organizer, said she plans to put academics on the back burner for at least the next two days.

“It’s hard to manage anxiety, but being able to see the end goal is really helpful,” she said. “Being able to see what we’re trying to get to, and just how possible — not just possible, plausible — it is that we get to this end goal is really helpful.”

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.