Election week? Maybe not. Arizona, Florida and others could give us an early indication of who is winning
WASHINGTON - Many campaign experts have warned that due to the unprecedented deluge of postal ballot papers amid the coronavirus pandemic, it could be days or even weeks after election day for the final result of the presidential race to be achieved.
But the country could receive important clues on election night, even if some key states continue to count.
Some battlefield states - some used to high-volume postal voting and others who begin postal ballot processing weeks before November 3rd - are expected to count and report a significant percentage of their votes on election night and by the next morning.
Recent polls show that Democratic candidate Joe Biden has built a double-digit lead at the national level since the first presidential debate and expanded his lead in most swing states. Election night numbers in some states could indicate whether the former Vice President is on track to a pivotal victory over President Donald Trump or whether the outcome remains in doubt.
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Attendees watch the return on large video screens during the Dallas County Democrats Watch Party in Dallas on Tuesday November 8, 2016. (AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez)
These states include: Florida, which will begin processing postal ballot papers 22 days before the election; Arizona starting this process two weeks before the election; North Carolina, which began ballot processing on September 29; and Texas.
Although Texas is not one of the states that expanded postal voting to all voters during the pandemic, major counties can start postal ballot processing 12 days before the election. In Georgia, which has made postal votes available to all voters, ballot processing can begin two weeks in advance. Ohio started processing postal ballot papers last week. In Iowa, counties can begin opening the outer envelopes for postal ballot papers on the Saturday before election day.
Each is in contrast to three critical Rust Belt states - Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan - where election officials must wait until election day, or in Michigan's case, 10 hours before voting before they can open postal ballots and start counting. These three states are expected to count millions of postal ballot papers days after the polls are completed.
"I think the conventional wisdom that this thing takes weeks or many, many days is probably wrong," said Thomas Volgy, professor of political science at the University of Arizona.
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A "big signal" on election night?
When processing postal ballot papers, the envelopes with the voting papers are opened, the signatures are compared with the registration roles and the barcodes on the envelopes are checked. Each is a necessary step before the ballots are counted.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, 4 out of 5 Arizonans voted by post. According to Volgy, a former Democratic mayor of Tucson, the state won't see results right away, but the Arizona winner could be known the next morning. Recent polls in Arizona, in which no Democrat has been elected in a presidential election since 1996, have Biden between 2 and 8 percentage points ahead.
Supporters cheer as Fox New North Carolina calls on behalf of Donald Trump during the Republican Party election observation at the Horse & Barrel Bourbon House in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
"We'll have very, very clear indications," said Volgy. "If a state like Arizona reports that Biden won, what the polls look like right now, or Florida, it'll send a really big signal about what is happening to the rest of the ballot papers in the Midwest that count." late."
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Some of the leading indicator states are in the sun belt, have historically been more conservative and chose Trump in 2016. However, according to recent polls, Biden is either ahead or competitive as the president provides support among senior and college-educated suburban voters and women are eroding.
Some of the states that start processing early also have competitive races in the U.S. Senate - Senator Martha McSally versus Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona and Senator Thom Tillis versus Democrat Cal Cunningham in North Carolina - that could decide whether Democrats take control of the US Senate.
Neither of these states will get full results on election night, but they could have been counted and published enough to show whether Biden or Trump are likely to prevail, or if the race will stay close if pending postal ballots are counted.
"We'll probably hear about Florida and Arizona by next morning at the latest," said Volgy. "There is no path to victory for the Trump campaign if he loses both Florida and Arizona."
Conversely, if Trump carried Florida and Arizona, Biden would still have life. The former vice president would have to carry every state Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and flip Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which Trump won four years ago. Therefore, a Trump victory in Florida and Arizona would not necessarily mean a re-election victory, but shift the focus to the counting efforts in the states of the Midwest.
Trump supporter Jessie Diconti cheers for a Williamson County Republican Guard Party on election night at the Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin, Tennessee on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. (Via OlyDrop)
Florida, Florida, Florida
Even if Biden and Trump compete on election night in Florida or Arizona, it could mean Biden is in good shape in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania - states where Biden tuned better and led consistently throughout the race.
Close competition in Georgia or North Carolina could cause problems for Trump at the national level as well. Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said Tar Heel State expects "98% to 99%" of ballots to be reported in the hours following the election. The latest polls in North Carolina range from a tie to Biden Head up 4 percentage points.
"We should be able to see what's going to happen," said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, looking down on election night.
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In Florida, postal ballot papers must be in the polling station on election day. Early personal and postal ballot papers are among the first results published in Florida. Historically, 30% of Floridians voted by mail prior to the pandemic. This year, 1.7 million people in Florida have voted early by mail, with the Democrats having a huge advantage - 850,000 Democrats have returned postal ballots compared to 480,000 Republicans.
Polls show that Biden voters are twice as likely to vote by mail as Trump supporters, while the president's month-long attack on postal voting, which he argues without evidence, is fraught with fraud. Recent Florida polls show Biden is ahead.
If Biden is only 1 percentage point ahead on Florida election night, it will only count military, overseas and preliminary ballots, which Biden is likely to benefit from, McDonald said.
"The most likely scenario is that we know who Florida will win," he said, adding that if Biden wins, it will severely limit Trump's path to a college election victory. If Biden also wins North Carolina and Texas, or Arizona, those paths practically no longer exist for Trump. So on election night there is a good chance we will know who the president is. "
"We will know in a short time what world we live in."
The election night numbers in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin should favor Trump due to his expected advantage in personal voting on election day. Democrats sounded the alarm on election night about a "red mirage" that puts Trump in the lead in these states and replaced it with a "blue shift" as postal ballot papers are counted that could distort 2 to 1 for Biden.
More: Some Democrats warn that Trump may use "red mirage" to prematurely declare victory while absentee votes are counted
In Florida, a state that has voted the presidential winner in every election since 1992, the opposite could be the case.
"If anything, we're going to see the 'red shift' in Florida," said McDonald, referring to the mail-in ballots that are likely to be released first. "Biden should probably get a big head start in Florida, and then when the election day results come out of the counties, we'll see Trump catch up on Biden."
Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor and co-director of the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Projects, said it was true that a winner may not be "definitely" known on election night. But he said it was more likely that election night would produce enough results from fully counted states and fully counted counties to draw “inferences” about the likely winner.
He said while Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin may not have counted all postal ballots, some fast counting counties in those states should be ready soon after the election. Election observers should be able to compare Trump's numbers in those countries with his 2016 performance to see where things are.
"Since 2016 was such a close win, if he's worse off than 2016, that gives you a sense of whether he can win this year," said Persily.
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Trump has not committed to a peaceful transfer of power or agreed not to declare victory prematurely. He has also provided evidence of post-election litigation, even in the Supreme Court, leading many to predict that the election will be decided in court.
"It makes sense to preach caution but not predict chaos," Persily said. "We need to prepare the American people for another type of election night because if we repeat 2016, let alone 2000, we may find ourselves in the long run."
But he added: "We will know in a short time what world we live in - one in which there is a clear winner or one in which we will fight for many days over the postal vote."
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Campaigns against Georgia, Texas
In the past few weeks, the Trump campaign - which faced a fundraising disadvantage against Biden - has run television ads in Michigan and Wisconsin and increased its ad spend in Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, a swing state Clinton won in 2016 BuzzFeed News.
In a sign of a close race in Georgia that polls show in a virtual tie, the president has scheduled a rally in Georgia later this week days after his daughter Ivanka Trump is set to camp in the state.
Texas, which ranks second after California with 38 votes, remains the most difficult state in the sun belt for Biden. But it's a state where, thanks to demographic change and several close races in Congress, Democrats believe they can win for the first time since the 1992 presidential election.
More: Go big or play it safe? Voting card expanded for Joe Biden and Democrats, but at risk
To bring both Georgia and Texas into play, Biden's wife Jill Biden fought in Georgia on Monday and plans to travel to El Paso, Dallas and Houston on Tuesday. According to Advertising Analytics, a political ad tracking company, the Biden campaign spent nearly $ 4 million on television advertising in Georgia and $ 6 million in Texas.
"It's something that is possible but not likely," said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, of Biden wearing Texas.
The largest cities in Texas, like Houston, have a long history that extends well into the late night of election day and even into the wee hours of the morning. But Texas, which will personally begin early voting on Tuesday, shouldn't have the massive number of pending postal ballots like other states, as its leaders have chosen not to expand postal voting during the pandemic.
"I think we're going to have a pretty good indication of what's going on, but there are a lot of big ifs," said Henson.
Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points in 2016, but polls show he has a smaller lead of 2 to 7 percentage points this year. If Texas closes on election night, it could be a sign of a landslide in Biden.
"If Wednesday morning rolls around and Texas is too close to call, assume there has been a pretty successful wave for Biden nationwide," said Henson. "And at this point who knows? It can't be important."
Reach out to Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: 2020 Election: Mail Voting Should Not Delay Results in Several Key States
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