The 2020 U.S. presidential election was the most acrimonious in recent memory, with rising political animosity threatening to erupt into partisan violence. But widespread fears that voting would be violently disrupted did not materialize. While scattered incidents of violence and voter intimidation did occur throughout the early voting period and on Election Day, voting was generally orderly and safe. After Election Day, protests and agitation by supporters of losing candidate Donald Trump did not translate into broad instability or widespread partisan violence. The shocking and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on January 6 did not prevent President-Elect Joe Biden from taking office on January 20. This memo analyzes the role of violence before, during, and immediately after the 2020 election, provides a catalog of the isolated occurrences of voter intimidation and violence, and considers several explanations for why the U.S. escaped widespread election violence.
Author: Tom Westphal