Election Night: What we know and what we don’t know

Election Night: What we know and what we don’t know


Election Night is in full swing.

After a particularly contentious campaign season amid a global pandemic, Americans are finishing casting their votes Tuesday between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

But with an unprecedented number of absentee ballots and numerous legal challenges playing out, a lot remains unknown around one of the most anxious days in a tumultuous election year.

Here’s the latest on what we know and don’t know about Election Day 2020:

What we know:

Polls have closed in more than half of the country

Polls have closed in crucial battleground states, from Pennsylvania to Florida to Arizona. But don’t expect results right away. The counting is likely to go on for hours or even days due to the high volume of absentee ballots. Some counties are also delaying closing to accommodate technical issues.

Some votes will get counted later than planned

A handful of counties in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia are letting a few precincts stay open later than planned due to various unforeseen issues. Absentee ballots in Fulton County — the largest in Georgia — will face a delay due to a burst water pipe. Closing delays are routine in every election to accommodate last minute problems, from faulty equipment to a poll worker oversleeping.

The election is running pretty smoothly

Despite fears of election interference, technical failures and general chaos, Election Day has been largely smooth sailing. There have been a few reported snafus, including misinformation campaigns and equipment failures, but they have been exceedingly rare. Still, a lot can change in the hours until the final polls close.

About 100 million Americans voted before Election Day

With a record number of mail-in ballots expected due to the coronavirus pandemic and a rush to early voting amid concerns over the postal service, a remarkable 100 million Americans already voted before Tuesday. For reference, about 138 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election in total.

What we don’t know:

Crucial races in Florida and North Carolina are still too close to call

Florida is a crucial state for Trump, and he appears to be on promising track as votes in the state continue to be counted. Biden campaigned heavily in the state, but appeared to have underwhelming results in Miami-Dade County early in the evening. Biden was polling ahead in North Carolina by a slim two percentage points ahead of Election Day, and the state remained too close to call as of Tuesday evening.

When we’ll know who the next president is

Final results in a number of states likely won’t get in until days after Election Day. As large swaths of voters are planning to mail in their ballots — some sent as late as Election Day — critical states like Pennsylvania will still be counting by day’s end. Still, we’ll likely know the results Tuesday night in a number of key swing states, including Florida and Georgia.

Just how bad are the Postal Service problems

News of a sub-optimally functioning Postal Service caused serious fears about the efficacy of mail-in voting. And the drama has carried into Election Day. A federal judge ordered the Postal Service to send inspectors to check for any remaining ballots not yet delivered in a number of swing states as their deadlines for accepting ballots approach.

How much has misinformation influenced the election

Misinformation has only expanded in scale since the 2016 election, and the shenanigans seem to be targeting voters directly. Election officials and voters alike have been reporting robocalls across the country, telling them to either stay home or vote on the wrong day.

Will Trump concede

Trump has repeatedly refused to entertain the possibility of losing and famously declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should Biden win. It’s unknown how the president will respond if the former vice president prevails as a clear winner, but he did acknowledge Tuesday that he’d declare himself winner “only when there’s a victory.”

“There’s no reason to play games,” Trump said.

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