Many political junkies across the world have eagerly marked 4 November on their calendars, when we will finally begin to get results from this year’s tumultuous U.S. presidential elections as well as the U.S. Senate elections.
This is a handy guide for what to look out for, and find out what time results will begin to come in, adjusted for a South African time zone.
This year’s presidential election sees the incumbent, Donald Trump, facing off against former Vice President, Joe Biden, in what has been a difficult year for the United States, with rioting and protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the country, the Covid-19 pandemic, and an economy that has been hit hard by lockdowns and the pandemic.
It’s important to remember that America votes by state, not nationally. This means the U.S. presidential election is more like 50 elections that occur on the same day rather than one election. Each state provides a particular number of electors who will choose the president. A candidate needs 270 electors to win. The total number of votes for a candidate, the so called “popular vote” does not matter. If both candidates get fewer than 270 electors, there is a tie and a complex process kicks off. States are allocated electors based on population, but no state can have fewer than three electors. If a candidate gets the most votes in a state, he wins, no matter with what margin of victory (except in Nebraska and Maine.) This means the election will come down to the key “Swing States”. Elections in these states are likely to be very close-run.
You can check out: https://www.270towin.com/ to build your own map of the electoral college and see what combination of states it takes to win.
These are the key swing states to watch:
There is also a swing elector in Nebraska’s 2nd district and another one in Maine’s 2nd district, but these two electors will only matter in a very close election or a tie.
Trump will seek to shore up his support with his most-loyal voter base: white voters without a university degree and rural voters, who traditionally do not turn out in large numbers. Trump will be seeking to get these voters to the polls whilst holding on to as much support as possible in the suburbs amongst white voters with a college degree, all whilst making some inroads with black men and Cuban Hispanic voters. Trump will also want to hold on to as many older voters as possible.
Biden is hoping to sway votes from or depress turnout amongst whites without a college degree, especially in the key battleground states. Biden will hope to build his support amongst white, suburban, college educated voters, particularly women, and bring out black voters to the polls, get non-Cuban Hispanics to the polls in the swing states, and win out amongst Cuban Hispanics.
Both candidates will be competing aggressively for older voters, who traditionally vote Republican. Recent polling has shown these may be shifting towards Biden.
Another important dynamic of the race so far, according to polls, is the huge gender gap in preference. Traditionally men and women vote similarly but, in this election, polls indicate that whilst Trump is holding up amongst male voters, he is struggling to gain traction with female voters. One poll at the end of September had Biden up 23 points with female voters and Trump up seven with male voters.
White voters without a college degree are most important in the swing states of:
Black turnout will be critical in every swing state except Arizona, while Hispanic turnout will be key in Arizona and Florida. Cuban-American votes will be important in Florida.
Things to watch out for:
How strong the support is for Biden amongst suburban and college educated voters: If Biden wins these voters he will likely do well.
Turnout amongst whites without a college degree: High turnout from these voters is likely good for Trump and he will need them to come out in a big way to win and defy the polls.
Black and Hispanic turnout: will be crucial for Biden to win.
Cuban-Hispanic voter exit polls will give some insight into which way Florida will go.
Timeline of the Election
4th September: North Carolina begins mail-in votes
14th September: Indiana begins mail-in voting
17th September: Wisconsin begins mail-in voting
18th – 19th September: Pennsylvania Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas begin mail-in voting
21st -28th September: Mississippi and Vermont, Missouri Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska and North Dakota begin mail-in voting
29th September: First Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump
1st October – 9th October: District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, South Carolina, California, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Ohio, Arizona, Alaska and Montana begin mail-in voting
7th October: Vice-Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.
12th October- 16th October: Idaho, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon Hawaii, and Washington begin mail-in voting
15th October: Second Presidential debate (Cancelled due to Trump’s refusal to do a virtual debate after his Covid-19 diagnosis)
22nd October: 3rd and Final Presidential debate (subject to negotiations following Trump’s Covid diagnosis)
November 3rd: Election day
November 4th: Results
Around 35% – 50% of the votes will likely be cast before election day via early voting or mail-in voting. These votes may favour Biden, as his party has promoted their use to get those people to vote who are scared of Covid-19. More votes than usual are expected to be cast early due to Covid-19.
Added complexities with the expected mail-in votes may cause results to come out much more slowly than usual. In the event of a reasonably close race we may not know who has won the election until well after 4th November.
Timeline of Election Night
Remember that the Eastern U.S will be 7 hours behind South Africa and the Western coast will be 10 hours behind us.
(E) indicates polls in the Eastern time zone as some states have multiple time zones.
(C) indicates polls in the Central time zone.
(M) indicates polls in the Mountain time zone
(P) indicates polls in the Pacific time zone
All times given here will be in South African time.
3rd November – 4th November: Americans will vote for the President, the Senate, the House and some states will elect governors.
November 4th: 1:00 AM, Polls close in the eastern half of Indiana (E) and Kentucky (E)
2:00 AM: Polls close in Florida (E), South Carolina, Virgina, Vermont, Georgia and the western half of Indiana (C) and Kentucky (C)
2:30 AM: Polls close in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia
3:00 AM: Polls close in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (C), Illinois, Kansas (C) Maine, Massachusetts Maryland, Michigan (E) Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota (C), Tennessee, Texas (C), Washington, D.C. and Mississippi
3:30 AM: Polls close in: Arkansas
Around 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM we will likely see the exit polls come out. Whilst exit polls are sometimes inaccurate, they will give a reasonable sense of where the race is, and so will tell us if its going to be a close race or if one candidate is doing very well.
4:00 AM: Polls close in: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan (C), Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota (M), Texas (M), Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
5:00 AM: Polls close in: Idaho (M), Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Oregon (M), and Utah
6:00 AM: Polls close in: California, Hawaii, Idaho (P), Oregon (P) and Washington
7:00 AM: Polls close in: Alaska