Your Handy Guide to the 2020 American Presidential Election
After four unbelievably exhausting years, Election Day in the USA is finally upon us. On November 3rd, Americans will decide who takes over one of the most influential positions in the world – the President of the United States.
This election will be one of the most important in our history, and the pandemic has added some nuances to the timing of election results. I created this post to explain some of the basics you need to know going into election night, including when we can expect the results, the most critical swing states in the US this year, and my prediction for the next President.
How Does the US Election Work?
The USA uses an Electoral College system. Each state has a designated number of Electoral College votes roughly proportionate to its population. The candidate that receives the most votes in a state wins all this state’s Electoral College votes (except in Nebraska and Maine, where the Electoral College votes are split). All 50 states’ Electoral College votes add up to 538 votes in total. The candidate who gets at least 270 votes wins the presidency.
When Can We Expect Results This Year?
Although many counties usually take several days to tabulate their votes, we can usually expect a result on Election Night itself in a normal year.
This is far from a normal year. Voter turnout in this election is on pace to be the highest it has been in a century, and due to the pandemic, a massive number of votes have been cast via mail. In the 2016 election, 136 million people voted in total. As of today, nearly 100 million mail-in votes have already been cast, and these will take time to process.
While many states have begun processing and tabulating mail-in votes already, certain states (such as New York, California, Michigan and Pennsylvania) are expected to take several days or even weeks to accurately count their votes. States such as NY and CA are heavily favored to be Democratic, so those two specifically should not raise too much of an issue for the final result, but MI and PA are important swing states. There is a possible situation where these states are deciding the presidency, and we would need to wait a long time before we can get accurate results.
Below is a helpful graphic showing which states we can expect results from on Election Night:
Which States Will Decide the Presidency This Election?
38 of the 50 States are very likely to have a pre-determined outcome, and the remaining 12 states are designated as “Swing States”. Polls and recent election history show these states could go either way on Election Night. The map below shows all 50 states in the USA and their respective electoral college votes. Blue states are probable to go Biden, and red states are probable to go Trump.
We see here that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are likely to have at least 232 electoral college votes go their way, and they need an additional 38 votes to win the presidency. Trump has 125 likely electoral college votes, so he will need to win 145 of the remaining 181 electoral college votes to stay in power.
For Biden to win this election, he will have to flip certain states that voted Republican last election to Democratic this time around. The graphic below shows which states Biden needs to flip from 2016 to win the election. The blue states show where he is ahead in the polls, and by how much.
Biden has a very strong lead in Michigan and Wisconsin, and although these went to Trump in 2016, I think these will swing back to Biden this election. This will leave an additional 12 electoral college votes to win the presidency for the Democrats, which I think are likely to come from Pennsylvania and one of North Carolina or Arizona. I think Biden will have a difficult time winning Texas, Ohio, Florida or Georgia, but hopefully this will not matter if he wins in Pennsylvania, Arizona and/or North Carolina.
What is my Prediction for Election Night?
I believe we may see initial results seem more Republican friendly before things shift back to the Democratic side. In-person ballots are more likely to be Republican while mail-in ballots are more likely to be Democratic. In many states, in-person votes will be counted first, which means initial results may tilt Republican before evening out later on Election Night. If you see certain states moving Red early on Tuesday, don’t be alarmed!
Large swing states such as Florida, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina should give us results on Election Night itself. If Biden wins one or two of these, he will be extremely well positioned to win, and could declare victory by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
The rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are unlikely to have results on election night, and we may not know their results until Friday. If the earlier mentioned swing states go towards Trump, we are unlikely to know who the President will be until the end of the week once these three states process their votes.
My electoral college model shows Biden winning at least 295 votes and winning the presidency.
Hopefully, we will have an idea on the result on Election Night, but there is a real chance this takes much longer and this could likely lead to Trump attempting to dispute the results.
However, in the end, I believe Biden and Harris will win and that they will be a powerful force to unite the US (and the world at large) after 4 years of divisiveness and bitter, partisan politics.
To my American friends, please get out there and vote! We are at a crucial inflection point in modern-day history, and you have the ability to make a massive difference on the direction the world takes from this point forward.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the election, and what are hopefully the last days of insanity that have come with the 45th President of the United States. If the prediction is accurate, we will be on to better things sooner rather than later!
Written By Suraj K. Gupta
Monday, November 2, 2020