- Election Day is here, and while some states will start reporting results as soon as the first polls close, the public may have to wait days or even weeks for the final results to trickle in from the historic amount of absentee ballots cast.
- Mail-in votes take longer to count than in-person for a number of reasons, including more thorough verification processes.
- While some states like Georgia have already started counting the absentee ballots, other key battlegrounds, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, did not start counting until today.
For months, election officials and experts have warned that the United States was unlikely to see a clear winner declared on Nov. 3. Now that Election Day is finally here, Americans are wondering when they will know the outcome of this historic and contentious election cycle.
While the final results could take days if not weeks to roll in, experts have laid out predictions of what Americans might see tonight.
What Happens When the Polls Close?
The first polls close on the East Coast at 6 p.m ET, and the last will not shut down until after midnight.
While that means it will be a late night for those on the East Coast, it also means folks on the West Coast will start seeing results coming in as early as 4 p.m. when states start reporting partial returns as soon as polls close.
One important thing to keep in mind here is that these results will not come in all at once, so if you’re looking at those early returns, they will very likely be skewed. That is especially relevant in the context of mail-in ballots.
Absentee ballots simply take longer to count than in-person votes for a number of reasons. Each mail-in ballot has to be opened and its eligibility must be verified. That process takes even longer in states that require more strict verification processes, such as matching a voter’s signature with their records, contacting voters if there are mistakes.
Some states have already begun the process of counting those absentee ballots, but others are required by state law to wait. For example, while key battlegrounds like Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia allow counties to start tabulating their absentee ballots before the election, others like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin do not start counting until Election Day.
What Does That Mean for How Results Come In?
This variance of when absentee ballots are counted in each state has two major implications for election results.
First of all, it means that some swing states may report more complete results earlier on than others depending on when they both start and stop counting mail-in ballots.
Take Georgia, for example: a state that both starts counting absentee ballots as they arrive and stops accepting new ballots after polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. That means that when Georgia starts publishing its returns, they will include the absentee ballots that have already been counted days and even weeks ago. On top of that, because of their cutoff for new absentee ballots, there will be fewer new ones to tally.
By contrast, Pennsylvania will not start counting absentee ballots until today and will allow those ballots to arrive until Nov. 6 — at least for now, though a Supreme Court ruling could prevent ballots received after Election Day from being counted.
While Americans may expect to see expedited results and complete results in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania might take a while, which brings us to the second major implication: some swing states will likely be called earlier — and possibly much earlier — than others.
One common misconception to note here is that when someone says on election night (or even in the few days that follow) that a state has been “called,” that is not the official result. Instead, it is just a determination made by organizations like the Associated Press based on partial counts, and while those projections are oftentimes correct, they are considered unofficial by election officials.
In fact, the results are usually not made official until weeks after the election when they are certified by election authorities. While we might expect to see some states called today by the AP and others, as The New York Times explains, the big question this year is “whether enough states will have enough of their votes counted on election night for accurate projections. And depending on which states those are, we may not know immediately which candidate has actually reached the 270 votes in the Electoral College to have won the presidency.”
Even though states might be called tonight, it is all about reaching that 270 threshold, and unless a bunch of battlegrounds are called for one candidate very early on, we will be playing the waiting game for at least a few days, if not longer.
That process will likely be made even longer by the slew of court battles in battleground states Americans can expect to see in the coming days and weeks.
President Donald Trump himself has said he will fight voting rules and results all the way to the Supreme Court, and on Sunday, he indicated that he would start that process immediately.
“We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers,” the president told reporters, specifically implying he would go after Pennsylvania and other swing states for counting ballots after Election Day.
Notably, Trump has also denied that he would prematurely declare victory, including as recently as today, when he said he would only declare victory “when there is victory, if there is victory.”
Meanwhile, Axios reported this morning that advisers for former Vice President Joe Biden told them that, “if news organizations declare Joe Biden the mathematical president-elect, he plans to address the nation as its new leader, even if President Trump continues to fight in court.”
“So if Biden is declared the winner, he’ll begin forming his government and looking presidential — and won’t yield to doubts Trump might try to sow,” the outlet continued.
While much is still up in the air, one thing Americans are almost certain to see — and have already seen through early and mail-in voting — records voter turnout.
As of Monday, more than 98 million Americans had cast their ballots, which is roughly 70% of the total voter turnout in 2016. Texas, Hawaii, and Montana surpassed their entire 2016 turnout even before Election Day.
But regardless of these historic numbers, there are still plenty of other states that have seen lower mail-in and early voting relative to total 2016 turnout, which likely means those states will see higher in-person voting Tuesday.
That includes some of the most key battleground states like Pennsylvania, which as of Monday had reached only about 40% of its total 2016 tallies, as well as Ohio and Michigan, with both hit around 60%.
Early this morning, there were already reports of long lines forming before polling places started to open.
According to AP, these long lines on Election Day are not unusual, and they are not necessarily a sign of voter suppression or technical issues, but rather likely a product of high voter turnout.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Senate Democrats To Introduce Voting Rights Bill This Week
Republicans are expected to block the legislation, but Democratic leaders hope the GOP’s unified opposition will lay the groundwork to justify getting rid of the filibuster.
Voting Bill Set for Floor
Senate Democrats are officially set to advance their voting rights bill this week, with a procedural vote to start debate on the legislation scheduled for Tuesday.
The move comes as an increasing number of Democrats and progressive activists have begun to embrace a more watered-down version of the bill proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the sole Democrat who opposed the initial proposal on the grounds that it was too partisan.
While Democrats have spent the weekend hashing out the final details of compromise on Manchin’s bill, which he has touted as a more bipartisan compromise, Senate Republicans have still broadly rejected it.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who previously opposed the initial For the People Act as too far-reaching, called Manchin’s alternative proposal “equally unacceptable” and predicted that no members of his party will vote in favor.
The legislation is all but guaranteed to fail in the chamber, where it will require all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans to overcome the filibuster.
However, bringing the bill to the floor still has major utility for Democrats because it will lay the groundwork for the party to justify scrapping the filibuster entirely.
Pathway for Filibuster Reform
Specifically, if Manchin agrees to some form of the bill which Republicans then filibuster, Democrats can say they had the to votes to pass the legislation if the filibuster were removed.
That, in turn, would bolster the Democratic argument that bipartisanship cannot be a precondition to taking actions to secure our democracy if it relies on reaching common ground with a party that they believe is increasingly and transparently committed to undermining democracy.
It would also give more ground to the Democratic claim that the GOP is abusing existing Senate rules to block policy changes that have gained wide public support following the Jan. 6 insurrection and amid the growing efforts by Republican governors and legislatures to restrict voting access in their states.
As a result, if Republicans block the legislation along party lines, Democratic leaders hope that could change objections to scrapping the filibuster voiced privately by some members and publicly by Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.).
This is especially true for Tuesday’s planned vote, because it is just a vote to proceed to debate, meaning that if Republicans filibuster, they will be preventing the Senate from even debating any efforts to protect democracy, including Manchin’s plan which he crafted specifically to reach a compromise with the GOP.
Whether a full party rejection would be enough to move the needle for Manchin and the other Democrats remains to be seen. Any successful overhaul of the contentious Senate rule would not only be incredibly significant for President Joe Biden’s agenda, but also for the precedent it could set.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (USA Today)
McConnell Says He Would Block a Biden SCOTUS Nominee in 2024
The Senate Minority Leader also refused to say whether or not he would block a hypothetical nominee in 2023 if his party overtakes the chamber’s slim majority in the midterm elections.
McConnell Doubles Down
During an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee from President Joe Biden in 2024 if Republicans took control of the Senate.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” he said. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”
McConnell’s remarks do not come as a surprise as they are in line with his past refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to the presidential election.
The then-majority leader received a ton of backlash for his efforts, especially after he forced through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just eight days before the 2020 election. At the time, McConnell argued the two situations were different because the Senate and the president were from the same party — a claim he reiterated in the interview.
McConnell also implied he may take that stance even further in comments to Hewitt, who asked if he would block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice if a seat were to be vacated at the end of 2023 about 18 months before the next inauguration — a precedent set by the appointment of Anthony Kennedy.
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.
Many Democrats immediately condemned McConnell’s remarks, including progressive leaders who renewed their calls to expand the court.
“Mitch McConnell is already foreshadowing that he’ll steal a 3rd Supreme Court seat if he gets the chance. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. We need to expand the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.).
Some also called on Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest SCOTUS judge, to retire.
“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for Demand Progress.
Others, however, argued that the response McConnell’s remarks elicited was exactly what he was hoping to see and said his timing was calculated.
The minority leader’s comments come as the calls for Breyer to step down have recently grown while the current Supreme Court term draws near, a time when justices often will announce their retirement.
On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was asked if she thought Breyer should leave the bench while Democrats still controlled the Senate. She responded that she was “inclined to say yes.”
With his latest public statement, McConnell’s aims are twofold here: he hopes to broaden divisions in the Democratic Party between progressives and more traditional liberals, who are more hesitant to rush Breyer to retire or expand the court, while simultaneously working to unite a fractured Republican base and encourage them to turn out in the midterm elections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Hill)
Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico
The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.
Texas Border Wall
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.
Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.
While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.
Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.
During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.
The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.
Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.
While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.
“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”
Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.
Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months.
Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.
Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.
The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.
During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.
“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”