The 2020 election: what to expect

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Courtesy of Reuters

Election official sorts mail-in ballots

Although the American political landscape during this election season—much like 2020 in general—may seem unpredictable, tumultuous, and fickle, a few key points, based upon primary elections already held across the country and events currently developing in Washington D.C., indicate which direction highly anticipated races in the fall (including the Senate, the House, state governors, and, of course, the presidential election) will unfold. It’s also worth mentioning that none of these directions are set in stone, and a lot of time remains between now and election day. That being said, here is what to expect, results and otherwise, from the 2020 election:

No winner on election night:
Through the past decades, it has become an esteemed American tradition to huddle around the television anxiously, waiting for the results of the presidential elections. However, this time around, because of the country’s inability to contain COVID-19, election night in America will look a little different. In crucial swing states and across the country, voting by mail will likely be the primary way voters cast their ballots. For example, in Wisconsin, 60 percent of the ballots cast in the contentious state supreme court election in April was by mail. Events like those in Wisconsin indicate that much of the picture will look incomplete by election day, with results flowing in the following days and possibly weeks. For example, in New York’s primaries this summer, results were still being counted more than a week after the polls closed. Election day, coupled with a defunded and dysfunctional postal service, makes it seem likely that delays will follow.

Long lines and a Republican advantage:
Regardless of the vote-counting to occur in the weeks following the election, election day will likely be hectic for all involved. First, expect hours-long lines in urban areas, as gutted polling places attempt to sustain an eager voting populous. In Kentucky and Georgia’s June primaries, many voters reported standing in line for hours simply to be able to vote in person. In many cases, urban areas reduced their polling locations to only a handful because of the virus and, in some instances, invoked voter suppression. Furthermore, viewers can expect a Republican advantage on election day, given that Republicans are more likely to vote in person than Democrats. According to an Axios-Ipsos poll, online 29 percent of Republicans believe that there is a moderate to large risk to voting in person, compared to 64 percent of Democrats. A higher Republican percentage indicates that more Republicans would vote in person than most Democrats voting by mail, which would directly translate to a higher republican weight in the early results, where in-person voting would be counted first. A similar situation occurred in the NY-27 house special elections in June, where election day results suggested that Republican Chris Jacobs would blow out Democrat Nate McMurray, however as more votes by mail arrived, the vote narrowed up to only a 5 percent win for the Republican. In essence, expect long lines and a robust Republican advantage on election day.

A lot of controversy around mail-in ballots:
One of the most heated debates currently happening in Washington surrounds mail-in voting. President Trump voiced strong opposition for mail-in voting (despite that he has and will vote by mail), and Republicans in Congress are not passing legislation that would fund the USPS and bolster the mail-in voting systems. Therefore, rampant ballot purges and disqualifications like what occurred in the primaries where ballots that arrived late or were deemed unmatching in their signatures were tossed aside. The USPS itself even suggested that in 46 states, delays in the mail in votes could disenfranchise voters. These delays, compiled with the prospect of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the validity of mail-in voting, suggests that, regardless of the results of the election, both sides will be strapped in for a plethora of legal challenges and allegations, similar to those seen in the infamous 2000 election between George Bush and Al Gore. As a side note, in order to ensure that election officials count your vote, make sure to send your ballot as soon as possible or to vote early in person.

A narrowing up of the race:
Currently, the race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump does not appear to be close. FiveThirtyEight, an organization that compiles polls, shows Biden with an 8.2 percent advantage in their polling average. Furthermore, Biden is leading by more than 5 percent in most swing states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Hampshire, and Nevada, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, FiveThirtyEight‘s poll is not a clear indication of what will happen on election day. Similar to 2016, these polls will narrow up as election day approaches, and have already narrowed up from Biden’s height in early July. In truth, most of the country remains polarized. Voters will stay with their respective political parties that they would have otherwise considered ditching, which suggests that this election will narrow up to at least 5 percent. That election day will be more contentious than what the data would suggest it is today.

The Final Prediction:
While all of these events may occur, there must still be a winner to emerge from this contentious election. Based upon polling data from FiveThirtyEight, models from The Economist and JHK Forecasts (which also give Biden greater than a 75 percent chance to win the election), and the 2016 election results (which would suggest a narrow Trump and Republican advantage), the presidential election shapes up to be a 334-204 electoral vote victory for Joe Biden with flips in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina. On the senate level, the results will show a 50-50 split in the nation’s upper House of Congress, fueled by flips for Democrats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina, and Republican flips in Alabama. A Joe Biden victory would mean a Senate majority for Democrats, as Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote. In the House, Democrats will retain the majority around the same margin of 2018 (235-200 advantage for Democrats).

All in all, it’s essential to understand that there is still much unpredictability surrounding the election. Viewer and voters can only wait until election day—and likely the weeks after—for a definitive answer of who will win this election of a lifetime.