We’re counting down the final days of the 2020 campaign, and that means a lot of people are starting to think about election night. Will it be President Trump or President-elect Biden?
Some experts caution we may not be able to call every race on the evening of November 3rd, but there’s a chance we will know the winner of the presidential election if you stay up late! With so much controversy over voting and a fair amount of disinformation around the 2020 election, how can you consume election results responsibly?
Here are 5 things to know and watch for on election night:
NBC News (And All TV Networks) Will Call Races Carefully
The Decision Desk at NBC News will not call the winner of a race until they have 99.5% confidence in the outcome of that race. Exit polls play a big role in helping that team project outcomes. NBC partners with ABC, CBS, and CNN to send people to 4,000 key voting precincts across the country. Their interviews with voters contribute to the projections made on election night. Fox News and the Associated Press have a separate exit polling partnership.
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Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio Should Be Called Early
These three states allow mail ballots to be processed and counted in advance of election day. That means they will be able to report election returns much more quickly. That will allow networks like NBC to project the winner of those states faster than states which do not allow mail ballots to be processed or counted before November 3rd.
Be Patient With Results From Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
These two states have laws which prevent them from opening and verifying mail ballots until election day. With the immense amount of early voting, that means PA and WI will need more time to count those ballots. If the election is close in either state, it could be some time before we know the winner of the 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania and the 10 electoral votes in Wisconsin. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t be able to project the winner of the White House*
Do Voters Encounter Any Problems? Bad Weather?
With threats of voter intimidation and the president’s call for poll watchers across the country, do those materialize? Poll watchers are legal, but they do have to register with each state. So unregistered poll watchers could lead to hiccups. And with 150 million Americans possibly voting this year, there could also be isolated technical issues. That doesn’t mean there’s any fraud, but it could slow down the voting process in some places.
Also, keep an eye on the weather. A blizzard in Wisconsin or a rainy day in Florida could impact the number of people who show-up to vote on election day.
Record-Breaking Voter Turnout
Dozens of states have broken early voting records, and that pattern should hold through election day. Modern presidential turnout hasn’t topped the nearly 64% of registered voters who showed up in 1960, but the 2020 election might beat that record! If 150 million or more Americans vote, what does that mean for races from the White House down to local cities and towns? Traditional wisdom is that Democrats do better than Republicans with higher turnout, but this is 2020… Stay tuned!
*One More Thing: FLORIDA, FLORIDA, FLORIDA!
Florida has correctly picked the winner of the presidency in 11 of the last 12 elections. Polls show an incredibly tight race in Florida between President Trump and former Vice President Biden. With the states that Biden seems certain to win, a victory in Florida would give him 261 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. That means Biden would only need to win one other swing state to win the race. Because Florida should be able to report election results quickly, the winner of that state’s 29 electoral votes has the inside track to victory.
WATCH SPECIAL COVERAGE OF ELECTION NIGHT ON NBCLX