You’re awake. Great. Welcome to Day Two of vote-counting in the 2020 presidential race.
You want to know where the race stands, what states are still up for grabs, and how this nail-biter of an election might play out. Right now, it looks like the race will come down to five states that are still up for grabs: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Let’s start with the latter two.
Georgia and North Carolina
These Sunbelt states were never pivotal to former Vice President Joe Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes. But going into election night, there were hopes that Biden might take one or both of these contests on his way to a massive, Trumpism-repudiating landslide. Public polls had shown him and down-ballot Democratic candidates tied or ahead in North Carolina, while progressive activists hoped that Biden and a pair of competitive U.S. Senate races in Georgia could build on the massive voter turnout seen in the 2018 gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams.
By Wednesday morning, the Associated Press had not called either state. In Georgia, Trump has opened up a lead of more than 300,000 votes. But here’s the catch: The densely populated counties in and around Atlanta, the state’s largest city, have yet to report most of their ballots. Part of the reason for the delay was a burst pipe in Atlanta’s State Farm arena that had disrupted the ballot processing process. According to reporting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, no ballots were damaged but it did mean that Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, wouldn’t report a near-complete vote tally until sometime on Wednesday.
Does Biden stand a chance in Georgia? He does when you consider most of the remaining ballots are coming from those heavily Democratic Atlanta-area counties. Still, with 81 percent of the vote already in, Biden needs to dominate the remaining ballots left to be counted in Georgia to eke out a victory in a state no Democratic presidential nominee has won since Bill Clinton 1992. Winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes would shake up the map and dramatically boost Biden’s chances of winning the presidency.
In North Carolina, President Trump holds a slim lead of just 76,000 votes. Can Biden make up the difference? It doesn’t look likely. While the few counties left still to report votes lean Democratic, it’s hard to see Biden winning enough of those ballots to make up the difference between him and Trump and so claim the state’s 15 electoral votes.
Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin
In an only-in-2020 twist, the trio of states that have always represented Joe Biden’s clearest path to 270 electoral votes also happen to be the three states we’ve always known would take the longest to report their full election results.There are two reasons for this: the volume of ballots and the vagaries of local election law. All three states expected to process millions of mail-in ballots this year.
Biden’s pathway to victory brightened in pre-dawn Wisconsin. The Democrat erased a roughly 100,000 vote deficit during a vote-count update at about 4:30 a.m. ET, as absentee ballots from the city of Milwaukee were added to state tallies.
WI Presidential Election Results – Biden Takes The Lead
Biden (D): 49% (1,551,268 votes)
Trump (R): 49% (1,549,127 votes)
Estimated: > 95% votes in
More results here: https://t.co/WSml3RdgJ2
— Decision Desk HQ (@DecisionDeskHQ) November 4, 2020
Margins were also narrowing overnight in Michigan, where Biden closed Trump’s lead to just 70,000 votes with as much as 20 percent of the vote still to be counted. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who previously said her state’s count might not be available until Friday, revised that estimate downwards after the polls closed on election night. On Tuesday evening, Benson said that the state’s 3.2 million absentee ballots were being tabulated faster than expected, and results could be available as soon as Wednesday.
And in Pennsylvania — Joe Biden’s home state, the state most likely to make or break his White House dreams, and the state where Biden was trailing by nearly 700,000 votes roughly a quarter of the vote outstanding — counties are legally forbidden from beginning vote-by-mail counting before election day. Ballots can be received up until Friday, as long as they were postmarked by election day.
Nevada is a swing state that has performed reliably blue for Democrats in recent elections. But even with nearby Arizona flipping into Biden’s win column, the Silver State is not yet a safe bet. Returns tightened overnight, leaving the Democrat with a roughly 9,000 vote advantage. Nevada is small but its six electoral votes matter. Losing Nevada could considerably complicate Biden’s path to 270.
When will we have a final result?
We wait until these five states have finished their full vote counts. Based on what election officials have said in each of these states, we should have a clear picture of how the race stands and who the next president might be in the next day or two.
The wildcard here, of course, is whether lawyers on the Democratic or Republican sides decide to challenge the final vote counts in court. Over the weekend, Trump said that as soon as the election is over, “we’re going in with our lawyers.”
Pennsylvania, for instance, has seen a torrent of litigation filed by Democratic and Republican lawyers over everything from the use of ballot dropboxes to poll watcher eligibility requirements to, most crucially of all, to whether election clerks can accept mail-in ballots received after the polls close on Election Day. (After a drawn-out court battle, a judge ruled that they can accept ballots until Friday that are properly postmarked.)
If the lawsuits start flying, it could delay the final result of the presidential race for days and possibly weeks. By then, American democracy could be in uncharted territory.