Twenty years in the past Individuals wakened on an autumn morning after Election Day and didn’t know who would subsequently lead the nation.
It took 36 extra days to resolve the competition between Al Gore and George W Bush because the nation held its breath.
That prospect might occur once more in 2020.
Properly, the pandemic has many individuals frightened of voting in a particular person as a result of within the US that usually means ready for hours in a queue.
So thousands and thousands extra will vote by publishing and there are fears it might take days or even weeks to rely all of them, leaving the end result on a knife-edge.
What often occurs on regular election night time?
Completely different states cease voting at totally different instances.
The primary polls to shut are on the East Coast, at about 19:00 native time (00:00 GMT), and after that, you begin getting a working whole as votes in these states are counted.
Presidents will not be picked by successful a nationwide vote. No, as a substitute it is a sequence of state-wide races with the winner in every state taking a sure variety of what’s known as electoral school votes.
- How the electoral school works
- Very easy information to the US election
A state is “known as” for a candidate when a media outlet believes one candidate has an insurmountable lead. It’s a projection, not an ultimate end result.
Equally, when the entire election is “known as” for a candidate, it’s not the official end result as a result of there are nonetheless plenty of votes to rely on.
An election is often known as on the night time. And what follows is a choreographed response together with a concession speech from the dropping candidate. Maybe not this 12 months – extra on that later.
In 2016 the election was known as for Donald Trump at about 02:30 EST (07:30 GMT) after successful Wisconsin put him over the 270 thresholds of electoral school votes.
Within the days and weeks that adopted, an increasing number of Democratic votes had been counted which meant Hillary Clinton stretched her lead within the nationwide widespread vote however the electoral school was already misplaced.
An unprecedented quantity of postal ballots
Standing in a queue at a polling station on Election Day is the most typical means American voters solid ballots, however lately, voting by mail has risen in reputation.
Whereas it was beforehand not unusual for states to limit voting by publishing to particular circumstances – corresponding to being a soldier who was serving overseas – now the following is broadly permitted in a majority of states, whether or not one is an “absentee voter” or for some other motive.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted an unprecedented variety of requests from voters to solid ballots by publishing.
Some 80 million mail-in ballots are predicted to be solid – double the quantity in 2016 and greater than some other election 12 months.
The priority, then, is whether or not that quantity of poll deliveries will delay everything.
That concern is not only as a result of the massive quantity of ballots to rely on.
It is usually as a result of US Postal Service present process cutbacks at a time when it has an enormous duty.
First, it has to publish poll papers out to folks, after which it has to ship them again once more to election authorities, all earlier than deadlines set by the states.
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How are postal votes counted?
States have large latitude over figuring out election guidelines, together with setting deadlines for a postal vote to qualify.
Pennsylvania will solely embody these acquired by 20:00 native time on Election Day, whereas California accepts votes so long as they’re postmarked by the date, even when they arrive weeks later. That is why counting within the enormous West Coast state all the time takes a very long time.
Postal ballot-counting takes longer as a result of every vote will need to have a signature that’s matched with a separate autograph on a registration card.
With double the variety of postal ballots anticipated, that course of alone will add time to the rely.
Some states like Florida will start processing the postal votes earlier than Election Day, like verifying signatures and begin really counting them on the morning of the election.
However most states and Washington DC don’t begin counting them till all of the in-person votings is over and polls have closed.
The Nationwide Convention of State Legislatures has a full listing of when every state counts postal votes.
What about in-person voting? Will that take longer?
The 2020 main elections additionally gave voters a preview of issues that would mar in-person voting on Election Day. States from New York to Alaska struggled with working this conventional and nonetheless commonest methodology of casting ballots.
This 12 months, perennial points like defective voting machines had been compounded by employee shortages and longer than common queues attributable to social distancing considerations.
These led to modifications that protracted the method.
Kentucky sharply minimize the variety of polling stations and needed to order polls to remain open longer, so folks in lower-income areas needed to journey a lot additional to solid a vote.
That was massively controversial, sparking accusations that the pandemic was getting used as an approach to suppress minority votes.
Alaska pressured all voters in some areas to make use of postal ballots as a result of no polling station may very well be opened and Georgia was confronted with lawsuits over malfunctioning polling machines.
How one key state is making ready for the avalanche of postal votes
By Laura Trevelyan, North Carolina
New Hanover County in Wilmington is the quintessential swing district in a battleground state. And the election is beneath means right here.
Scenic and prosperous, it hasn’t voted for a Democratic President since Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama got here shut in 2008, simply dropping the county although he received the state – and Donald Trump received narrowly in 2016, carrying the state too.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, folks in North Carolina have been in a position to request mail-in ballots for months and might achieve this till 9 October. They started receiving them initially of September.
The keenness has been off the charts – 813,014 voters had requested mail in ballots by 14 September, out of seven million registered voters within the state.
And right here in picture-perfect New Hanover County, the place 24.4K have requested mail in ballots, Democrats have the sting, with 12.4K requests, whereas 7.8K unaffiliated or unbiased voters are opting to vote by mail, in comparison with simply 3.9K Republicans.
The Republicans will catch up come in-person voting, Chase Horton of the New Hanover County Republican Occasion tells me. Something Donald Trump is in opposition to, like mail in voting, Democrats are for, says Richard Poole, the social gathering chairman within the county.
Kathryn Hedgepeth, of the non-partisan League of Ladies Voters which represents three counties, is delighted to see a lot enthusiasm for voting. She has her absentee poll already – however she needs to observe the primary presidential debate earlier than deciding how one can vote.
Candidates have an incentive to delay concession
With passions working so excessive on either side, Donald Trump and Joe Biden may very well be much more decided than common presidential contenders to not admit defeat.
For Mr Biden, the contours of this 12 months’s voting sample level to a strategic motive for him to delay conceding if he seems behind within the rely on the election night time.
Prior to now voting by mail was extra widespread amongst older folks, and it typically skewed Republican. However lately, the development has shifted towards working individuals who can not take time away from work to show up on the polls, they usually skew Democratic.
Consequently, there may be a motive to imagine that postal votes counted later will favour Mr Biden. So you possibly can have President Trump forward on the night time however his opponent narrowing the hole within the days that observe.
For months, the president has claimed that illicit forces are threatening to “steal” the election from him – both by strategies to under-count his help or over-count ballots for Mr Biden. No small a part of his political message has been about rejecting “coastal elites” who don’t signify the American heartlands and rural West.
Count on such messages to amplify if he’s narrowly forward on the night time of the election, with extra drama to observe.
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What about ballot watchers?
One other issue which will extend occasions is the additional scrutiny being paid to voting this 12 months.
The veracity of a poll may be topic to challenges by volunteer “ballot watchers” who look over the shoulders of officers verifying the legitimacy of a poll.
Ballots which can be challenged by a ballot watcher are put apart to be checked once more earlier than being counted or rejected.
Will there be authorized challenges too?
All this variation and confusion imply that authorized disputes are all however inevitable.
Greater than 190 election lawsuits have already been filed in 2020, contesting everything from identification necessities for postal voting to the legality of Covid-related modifications to main voting dates.
It’s anybody’s guess what authorized challenges might emerge that delay voting beforehand or reporting a definitive end result afterwards.
However, 2020 is shaping as much as be probably the most litigious election in US historical past, in line with Richard Hasen, an authorized scholar on the College of California Irvine.
Within the 2000 election, Mr Gore initially conceded after which retracted his concession after believing that his margin of loss in Florida ought to set off a recount.
It took a Supreme Courtroom determination over the legality of a recount to settle the competition.