This year, how long can we have to wait for the results of the presidential election? National Conference of State Legislative Bodies compiled law and policy for 2020 to process and count absentee ballots and mailed ballots. By combining them with the current polls, we get to know what we will know on the evening of November 3, Election Night.
This is very important because Trump is bolstering his base by talking about disapproving election results. He made false statements about the security risks associated with mail voting. If states close to him early reporting the number of votes directly to him take the lead and that lead rate takes days to disappear when all votes are counted, that could cause instability. Could it be more like Florida 2000, except for Wisconsin / Michigan / Pennsylvania 2020 more?
Many states do not allow absent / mailed ballots to be processed until Election Day or the day before. Over the years, this has not been a problem. But this year, it is likely that a majority of the votes will be taken by mail. And there’s a major partisan divide: in surveys, those votes favor Joe Biden (D), while votes directly support President Donald Trump (R). In states where direct votes are counted and reported first, Trump may be ahead, but real results won’t be known for days.
If we fill the map above with possible results from states without much doubt, the picture becomes clearer:
On the evening of November 3, Biden will be the state winner with a total of 227 electoral votes, while Trump will win 116 electoral votes. In addition, counting is likely to be done in some states where polls now show races within 5 percentage points. In Florida, which allows ballots to begin processing 22 days before Election Day, Biden is available lead 3 points (average of 8 polls in the past two weeks). If he wins Florida, that’s 256 electoral votes.
Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia are all tied for the time being. Biden will need only one of them to reach 270. But what if Trump wins them all?
Finally, there are four states where absenteeism / incoming mail will only start on November 2 or 3: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Three of those states were unexpectedly won by Trump in 2016, giving him the lead to win that election. In total, they have 52 electoral votes. If elections are up close, this is where the movie will take place.
A good sign for orderly tallying, Wisconsin took a responsible approach to the April primary election, where 80% of the votes were dropped by post. The final results were not announced until next week. It’s a wise approach, and unwanted drama can be avoided. Hopefully they and other states will do the same by November.
See our previous post for each state risk of interference with counting votes.