Blonde Money: US Presidential Election – It’ll be Alright on the Night
Many expect November’s election results to be chaotic, with predictions that coronavirus and political polarisation will result in recount requests and mail-in voting delaying results by weeks.
In reality, the logistics and legislation that underpin the voting process mean a delayed result is very unlikely.
From an electoral perspective, the 2020 election may even deliver quicker results than normal. Most swing states start counting mail ballots before polls close on election day.
Florida, for example, starts as early as October 12th. This year, as many as half of voters will vote early or by mail, reducing the amount of ballots that need to be tallied after polls close and effectively giving vote counters a head start.
But what about late ballots that the United States Postal Service itself warned might not make it in time?
BlondeMoney has ranked all the states by how winnable they are for President Trump, and of the 14 key swing states, half will only count the ballots if they’re received by election day.
That means that it doesn’t really matter if people leave it late – their vote won’t be included. If anything, these dire warnings will prompt people to return their ballots earlier, which once again will help ensure they’re processed sooner.
But what if the very last minute voters shift the dial? After all, on election day four years ago, around 13% of voters were said to be undecided. It was this pool of untapped voters that Trump managed to swing in his direction in a late surge, helping to confound the polls.
But this time around, there are two candidates that everyone already knows.
Biden’s experience and Trump’s conspicuous presidency mean most of the electorate have already made up their minds.
Currently, just 7% of voters are said to be undecided. Typically this falls to 4-5% by election day. Given current poll margins that put Biden ahead by 4 to 7 percentage points in the rust belt swing states, that would mean Trump would need all those voters to break for him, plus send in their ballots on election day itself, for any delayed ballots to move the dial.
Logistically, there’s similarly little reason to anticipate late results. Every state has historic experience with mail ballots, and the primaries in early 2020 provided a useful dress rehearsal. Rather than learn from scratch, therefore, states simply need to scale up their mail counting apparatus.
While social distancing means vote counters will likely be fewer on election day, possibly slowing result delivery, the fact that many mail votes will have already been counted offsets this to a helpful extent.
Finally, there is the threat of a delay due to contested ballots. This is unlikely because of the rigid recount laws in the swing states. In the three swing states with those all-important big electoral college votes, recounts would be tough.
In Wisconsin, a 1% margin is needed before candidates can request recounts.
In Florida and Pennsylvania the margin for an automatic recount is just 0.5%. These wafer-thin margins look unlikely given current polling. In any case, contesting the result has its political limits.
A sore loser candidate might want to keep recounts going, but if there’s a clear winner across the country, the political pressure will limit their ability to do so.
Overall, a significant delay to results beyond November 3rd is very unlikely. Early counting of mail ballots will likely accelerate, not hinder, electoral delivery, while this election’s wide margins mean mail votes are unlikely to seriously influence the results.
Coupled with each state’s logistical preparedness for mailed ballots and the bedrock of stringent recount law, the possibility of delay seems more and more remote.
Ultimately, for mail votes to delay results, significantly closer polls are needed.