It will take longer than normal to know who has won the Presidency on election night. But there are two key states to keep your eye on!
This year we are in for an election night unlike any in our history. The demands of social distancing and urgings of public health officials have led millions of Americans to vote in new ways this year. The coronavirus pandemic has quite literally transformed how, where, and when voters across America are casting their ballots.
The size and scope of early voting this year is historic. In the 2016 election four years ago, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission estimates that 57.2 million Americans cast ballots in advance of Election Day. This year, we are now on track for more than 100+ million votes cast before Election day. This increase means that we may see nearly 70% of total votes come from mail-in and in-person early voting, compared to 40% of total votes in the last presidential election.
This explosion in early voting has a real effect on how quickly local election officials can count ballots – and just how soon we may know the winner.
Each state has very different regulations for when and how election officials can count these pre-Election Day ballots. In some states, like Florida, counting of early ballots is already underway. In other states, like New York, mail-in ballots will not be counted until after the polls close on Election Day.
So, in some states, we are going to get early vote counts early in the evening (as soon as polls close) while in other states that count will take some time (days after Election Day). With this in mind, as we look towards election night, there are two states that will be important to watch and that may be able to tell us early on Tuesday night the winner of this election.
Keep An Eye On...
These two states: North Carolina and Florida.
While the counting of ballots in upper Midwest states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin may take days to fully complete, North Carolina and Florida both have rigorous early vote systems already in place that allow them to rapidly count this historic onslaught of pre-Election Day ballots. In fact, both of these states may well announce early vote totals before Election Day ballots are counted.
Both states also have fairly early poll closing times on Election Day, with polls in Florida closing at 7pmlocal time and in North Carolina at 7:30pm ET. This means that even as polls are still open in many midwestern and western battleground states, the state of this race may already be clear.
While Biden maintains a small but consistent lead against Trump in North Carolina (+2.0%) and Florida (+2.1%), both Democratic and Republicans strategist admit that both states are incredibly close and will be determined by narrow margins.
If Joe Biden is able to secure a win in either Florida or North Carolina, he will have won the presidency.
Donald Trump meanwhile must re-win both states (as he did in 2016), in addition running the gamut in the remaining battleground states.
Even with an expansive battleground map this year, the results in these two states may well provide the outcome needed for an early determination of the election winner – and an early bedtime for us all.
Matt McDermott is co-host of The Elections show , a Democratic pollster and communications strategist based in New York City. As Vice President at Whitman Insight Strategies, he advises corporate brands, political leaders, and issue-advocacy organizations on messaging strategy and targeting. Matt can be found on Twitter @mattmfm