Now less than 48 hours away, people in the United States and around the world are gearing up for what many believe is the most important election in recent history. The 2016 election had everyone shook – never again, they say. In order to win the Presidential Election, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes from a total of 538, which are spread out across the country in varying proportions. I will not go into the nature or history of this Electoral College, but as people might remember from 2016, winning the popular vote is not enough. This is 270 To Win.

In a previous article I wrote about the possible impact on the Supreme Court if Trump was to be reelected. Sadly, ‘Notorious RBG’ passed away sooner than expected, and Trump has since rushed to fill the vacated SCOTUS seat. Four more years of Trump, however, could prove fatal for the Democrats. Although, before we dig into that, let’s look at the polling data and the possible election outcomes!

But… why even trust polls? Did they not greatly mislead people in 2016?

Now, the 2016 election left many people to a complete distrust in polls and polling data. They are concerned that they will once more be bamboozled by the predictions. And rightfully so. Most people remember how Hillary was predicted an 80%, 85% and even 98% chance of winning, which certainly turned out not to be the case. However, this does not necessarily mean that it was the polls themselves that were off, but rather the pollsters who made their predictions based on the data. For instance, the polls had Hillary at an approximate 3-point lead nationally, and she ended up winning the popular vote by about 3 million; well within the margin of error. It is true that some of the state polls were off last time (albeit not by very much), but my point is that it would be somewhat foolish to dismiss polling data this time round – also noting that because of 2016, polling standards have risen significantly.

So, what does the data say? I will be presenting data from 270towin.com.

This is their current 2020 Consensus map, last updated Nov 1st at 6:09PM Eastern Time (00:09 GMT+1). It uses data from 9 different polling organizations and aggregates them onto the map. As can be seen, they forecast a Biden victory. Even if we delegate all toss-up (brown) votes to Trump, he still only reaches 248 electoral votes.

The map below is a bit trickier but also more representative of reality. It collects the all polling data from all state and national polls (between 1 and 55 polls per state, total of 546 polls nation-wide). Whether a state is a ‘toss-up’, ‘leaning’, ‘likely’ or ‘safe’ is categorized as following:

Margin <5% = toss-up
Margin <10% = leaning
Margin <15% = likely
Margin >15% = safe

Looking at the map, it shows that Bide greatly outperforms Trump in terms of safe states with 183 electoral votes. Including the likely and leaning states, Biden collects a total of 258 electoral votes, 12 votes shy of guaranteed victory. Trump would need to pull off and unlikely 145 electoral votes from the toss-up, which include states where Biden has a 4.9% lead. This also means that for Trump to win, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona are must win states, all of which are toss-ups at the moment.

Let’s say that there is no such thing as a toss-up, and if a candidate is by a mere 0.5% (or 0.1% for that matter, of course this is denying the margin of error) in a state, he wins it. If so, well, it does not look good for Trump right now. This, however, is not a good reference point, as the silent majority often surprises on election night (I will further explore how the election itself might go down in light of absentee voting etc.). Dramatic nonetheless!

Since these three maps give Biden a rather comfortable road to victory, I’d like to present a best possible case scenario for Trump. With 2016 still in the back of people’s minds, dismissing Trump at any point would be irresponsible.

As such this map gives Trump the victory in the states where he is leading, the states where they are tied, and the states where he is lacking behind 5% or less. Still, he would only narrowly reclaim the Presidency with by 8 electoral votes. Repeat: a best-case scenario for Trump following the polling data only gives him a narrow win. Of course, this is still a possibility.

Applying the same rules for Biden as for Trump, Biden wins in a landslide. 412 electoral votes versus Trumps 125. Again, this is the best possible outcome, and is quite unlikely to happen. It implies that Biden wins both Texas and Florida, which would be quite a surprise, especially in the case of Texas, which has not voted blue since Carter won in 1976.

What about mail in/absentee voting? What effect will that have on the election?

COVID-19 has been detrimental to many families in the US and the rest of the world and will no doubt have a say in the 2020 election. For starters, there it is probable that we will not know the actual winner of the election on election night, but rather days or even weeks after. Each individual state has different rules and different levels of experience when it comes to absentee voting, which has fueled heated debates in the media. Trump has been especially vocal about the possibility of voter fraud, which is something that concerns many people. This is because it is widely understood that Trump supporters are more likely to show up to the polls rather than vote early/via mail, which could mean that Trump wins on election night but loses after all ballots have been counted.

How long will this take?

Well, as I mention that states have different levels of experience regarding absentee voting (and that some states that are more heavily hit by COVID will no doubt have more absentee voters), we can look at the expectations of some states. I use the projections of FiveThirtyEight.com. 

  • Alabama: expects to have nearly all ballots counted by election nights, meaning it is improbably that the results will chance the following weeks (little shift in results).
  • Alaska: counting of absentee votes casted after October 29th will not start until November 10th, a full week after the election. Big possible shift in results.
  • California: huge state with a lot of experience, yet reportedly accepts votes arriving until November 20th. Minor shift in results possible.
  • Florida: used to absentee voting and expected to disclose results on election night. Late blue shift possible.
  • New York: on election night, results may skew red. Note that NYC Board of Elections have expressed that final results may not be ready before December 15th! Shift in result to blue is expected.

Yes, the uncertainty is high, and it is difficult to project what will happen between Election Day and the final day of counting. These are no good news for American families, who feel let down by recent politics games between Speaker of the House Pelosi (Dem.) and Trump in regard to passing stimulus checks for the public. More and more people are getting evicted from their homes, and with the winter approaching, a government in turmoil will only exacerbate the situation for families.

Furthermore, if Trump is to be reelected, there is not much hope left for Democratic policies such as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), abortion laws and LGBTQ+ rights. Trump already ensured a 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court, and with four more year, it is not unlikely that this majority is further increased to 7-2. While Biden and Harris have been dodging questions regarding expanding the Court, this seems to be on their agenda. However, I am unsure if anything fundamental will change for American under a Biden/Harris administration. For instance, Biden does not support Medicare For All nor the Green New Deal. At the same time, Biden and Harris have not been good at communicating their policy goals – perhaps the establishment does not allow things to fundamentally change? It seems clearer and clearer every day at least, with the amount of money that exists in US politics. One thing I would like to see is a discussion of campaign finance and the idea of Democracy Dollars for all eligible voters to invest in a party or person they like. Another concern might by the health of Joe Biden. Will he last? What message does it send when the two candidates are the oldest ever elected? So many questions, so little time.

Personally, I am very excited to see what this election process as a whole has in store for us. Since July 2019 I have been waking up between 3 and 4am (depending on my location) to catch every single Democratic and Presidential debate live. I’m not going to miss this one. Vote!

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