The coronavirus is affecting every area of life, including the election this fall in the United States. Let’s anticipate some of those effects so that we aren’t surprised on the evening of Tuesday, November 3rd. Here are some of the changes we can expect.
- There will be many more mail ballots than normal. Due to the virus, many people are rightly limiting their presence in public gatherings. This phenomenon does not affect Republicans and Democrats equally. Surveys suggest that about 70% of Republicans will vote in person (and 30% of Republicans will mail in their ballots). It is expected that about 40% of Democrats will vote in person at the voting sites (the remaining 60% of Democrats will mail in their ballots).
- This will affect the counting of the votes and, therefore, the reporting of the votes on the evening of November 3rd. The counting of mailed in ballots varies from state to state. Some states begin counting mail in ballots as they come in (on days before election day), some do not even begin counting these votes until after the polls are closed on election day. Most states require that mailed votes must be postmarked by election day. They vary on how many days after election day they permit for the mailed ballots to be delivered by the postal service.
- Scenario 1 / a “purple” precinct where they are exactly 100 voters who will vote for Trump and 100 voters who will vote for Biden. If on election day this precinct counts only the in-person votes and waits to count the mailed in votes in the following days, the early reporting on November 3rd will give an inaccurate picture. The early reporting that evening could show 70 votes for Trump and 40 for Biden, a huge victory for Trump. Nevertheless, in the following days, Biden’s numbers catch up and become exactly equal to Trump’s, 100 to 100. There is no evidence of fraud, but one party *feels* that cheating has taken place.
- Scenario 2 / a “slightly blue” precinct in a swing state likes Pennsylvania where 105 of the 200 voters plan on voting for Biden and the other 95 voters will vote for Trump. The in-person results on election night show 44 votes for Biden (40% x 110) and 63 votes for Trump (70% x 90), a strong and significant win for Trump. As the days go by and the mailed-in ballots begin to be tallied, Biden catches up and eventually wins 110 to 90. Cries of fraud erupt, but here again there is no evidence of any kind of cheating.
- We have become accustomed to ¨exit polls¨ which are surveys of voters after they have already cast their ballot at the voting place. By definition, these do not take into consideration voters who mail in their ballots, so exit polls will be skewed in favor of Trump. The true vote totals won’t be known until the mail in ballots are counted in the following days.
THEREFORE, We should not expect any final votes on the evening of November 3rd, because many mailed in ballots will not be tallied until the following days. Unless it is a landside victory obvious to all, no presidential candidate should claim a win on election night. A premature claim to victory could easily lead to violence if supporters whose candidate “won” on election night ends up losing as the mailed in votes are counted. Let sound reasoning prevail among us!