Five States to Watch on Election Night.
According to the U.S. Elections Project, as of October 26, over 60 million people have already voted—more than 43% of all votes cast in the 2016 election. This transition to early and mail-in voting has led to concerns that initial results on election night may not accurately reflect final outcomes. Two critical swing states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—both of which were vital to President Trump’s victory in 2016—do not begin tabulating ballots until Election Day. However, a number of crucial states process ballots much sooner and could, potentially, provide a definitive outcome on election night. Here are the states to watch:
- History: Since 1948, the Democratic nominee has only won Arizona once, in 1996. In recent years, the Grand Canyon state has trended more competitive—John McCain won his home state by more than 8% in 2008 and Mitt Romney won by more than 9% in 2012, but President Trump carried the state by only 3% in 2016. Since President Trump’s election, Kyrsten Sinema won a hard-fought campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the first time a Democrat has won a U.S. Senate election in Arizona since 1992.
- Ballot Counting: Arizona processes ballots upon receipt and The New York Times noted that “Of all the battleground states, none is expected to have as smooth an election as is Arizona.” The vast majority of votes in Arizona should be counted and released shortly after the polls close.
- History: A reliable Republican stronghold since 1972 (with the exception of southern Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton), Georgia has become increasingly competitive as the state’s population has grown. In 2016, Trump won the state by 5%. This year, it will likely be much closer. Between Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s contentious management of the COVID-19 pandemic and Stacey Abrams’ impressive voter registration efforts, polls show the current race in a dead heat. The state may come down to Atlanta’s suburbs, home to some of the most competitive House races in the nation in 2018.
- Ballot Counting: Georgia began processing absentee ballots on October 19, verifying signatures, and preparing them for counting. On Election Day, they will begin tallying the votes. Some counties predict that it could be a full week after Election Day before every vote is counted, but Georgia’s Secretary of State predicts that we should know the results one or two days after the election at the latest.
- North Carolina:
- History: North Carolina, similar to most of the states on this list, has consistently awarded 15 electoral votes to Republicans. Since 1968, when the south became a reliable bulwark of the Republican party, Democrats have only taken the state twice: Jimmy Carter’s campaign in 1976 and Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. However, despite the consistent performance of Republicans at the presidential level, Democrats have managed to more or less hold one of North Carolina’s two Senate seats since 1986. Moreover,the state’s demographics are shifting under the GOP’s feet. When the Trump campaign shared seven potential paths to victory, five of them included winning North Carolina—that dependence has shown in Trump’s campaign strategy, with the President visiting the state nearly a dozen times in the last two months and making trips into traditionally deep-red counties to drum up support.
- Ballot Counting: North Carolina processes ballots upon receipt and has in-person early voting available until October 31. Most of North Carolina’s votes will be counted and released shortly after the polls close on Election Day.
- History: Florida remains one of the most complex states for a presidential campaign. Its demographics are all over the map, with sizable retiree, Latinx, and felon (who, for the first time in recent history, will be allowed to vote) voting populations throughout the state. On top of that, Florida remains one of the most expensive swing states to advertise in. The state has been the site of some of the most contentious presidential election battles in modern memory. In recent weeks, Democrats and Republicans alike have turned out in droves, with hundreds of thousands of Floridians voting by mail and in person.
- Ballot Counting: Florida, unlike several other battleground states, starts counting votes a week before Election Day, but that week only buys them so much. The state has a long and troubled history with counting ballots: three recounts in 2018, malfunctioning voting machines in 2006, and the infamous 2000 hanging chad incident. However, officials remain optimistic about the state’s ability to quickly deliver results.
- History: Jimmy Carter was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win Texas in 1976. Since then, Republicans have largely commanded Texas’s Senate, House, and Governor’s mansion. Today, Texas boasts a Republican trifecta—but that might change in 2020. In 2018, Democrats picked up 12 state House seats. This cycle, only nine seats stand in the way of Democrats gaining a majority in the state House, and both parties are spending accordingly to win or retain their majorities. An added layer to Texas’ electoral future lies in a new law that repeals straight-ticket voting, an option that two-thirds of voters took advantage of in 2018. Not only will this add time to the voting process, but it may force voters to look more closely at candidates rather than a one-and-done voting behavior.
- Ballot Counting: Texas state law gives county election officials a head start on counting, particularly for mail-in ballots. While mail-in and early votes may be released shortly after polls close, voters are allowed to vote in-person as long as they are in line by closing time, which means—depending on the lines—some Texans may still be voting hours after 7 PM on election night.