- 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)
Republicans Say They Will Block Bill To Avert Government Shutdown and Debt Default
Democrats argue the bill is necessary to prevent an economic catastrophe.
Democrats Introduce Legislation
Democrats in the House and Senate unveiled sweeping legislation Monday that aimed to keep the government funded through early December, lift the federal debt limit, and provide around $35 billion for Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery.
The bill is needed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires next week. It is also necessary to prevent the Treasury Department from reaching the limit of its borrowing authority, which would trigger the U.S. to default on its debt for the first time ever.
For weeks, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged Congress to raise the federal debt limit, also known as the debt ceiling, warning that the department will soon exhaust all of its measures to keep the federal government within its legal borrowing limit.
If the U.S. were to default, it would be unable to pay its debts, sending massive shockwaves through the financial system.
Democrats have painted the bill as crucial to avert an economic doomsday that would massively undermine recovery.
They argue that the combination of a government shutdown and a debt default would destabilize global markets and leave millions of Americans without essential aid.
Republicans Vow to Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling
Despite the considerable threats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly said Republicans will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should do it without their help because they are pushing trillions of dollars in new spending priorities.
Democrats have slammed the Republican leader’s stance as hypocritical. They point out that while it is true they are proposing new spending, it has not been approved yet, and the debt that currently risks default has been incurred by both parties.
Democrats also noted that trillions of dollars were added to the federal debt under former President Donald Trump, which is more than what has been added by President Joe Biden. As a result, Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times during the Trump administration with the support of Democrats.
McConnell, however, remains unlikely to budge. On Monday, White House officials said McConnell has not outlined any requests or areas of negotiation in exchange for support of the legislation.
While the bill is expected to pass the House, it appears all but doomed in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to break the filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Politico)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Survives Recall
Experts say the outcome should act as a warning for Republicans who tie themselves to former President Donald Trump and attempt to undermine election results by promoting false voter fraud claims.
Recall Effort Fails
After seven months and an estimated $276 million in taxpayer money, the Republican-led effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) failed Tuesday.
Just under 70% of the votes have been reported as of Wednesday morning, showing that “no” on the recall received 63.9% of the vote. That’s nearly twice as many votes as “yes,” which had 36.1%.
According to The Washington Post, even if the margin narrows as more votes are counted, this still marks one of the biggest rejections of any recall effort in America over the last century.
Analysts say the historic rebuke was driven by high Democratic turnout and broader fears over resurging COVID cases.
While the Delta variant continues to push new infections to record highs in many parts of the country with lax mask rules and low vaccination rates, California, once a global epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest new caseloads in the nation.
Newsom has continually tried to convince voters that those figures are the results of his vaccine and masking policies, which have been some of the most aggressive in the U.S.
Given that polls showed the pandemic was the top concern for California voters, it is clear that the majority favored his policies over those of his competitors. Larry Elder, the Republican talk radio host of led the field of 46 challengers, ran on a platform of getting rid of essentially all COVID restrictions.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Newsom painted the recall’s failure not only as a win for Democratic coronavirus policies but also for Democracy at large.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression.”
“I think about just in the last few days and the former president put out saying this election was rigged,” he continued. “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around. That’s more like a, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump-ism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country.”
A Warning for Republicans
Newsom’s remarks took aim at the efforts by Elder and other Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — who over the last week have claimed falsely and without evidence that voter fraud helped secured the governor’s win before Election Day even took place.
While it is currently unknown whether that narrative may have prompted more Republican voters to stay home, Newsom’s effort to cast Edler as a Trump-like candidate and the recall as an undemocratic, Republican power grab appears to have been effective.
Now, political strategists say that the outcome of the recall should serve as a warning that Republicans who pin themselves to Trump and his Big Lie playbook may be hurt more in certain states.
“The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office,” The New York Times explained.
Even outside of a strongly blue state like California, analysts say this strategy will also be effective with similar candidates in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, which will be essential to deciding control of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Justice Department Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban
The department claims the Texas law violates past Supreme Court precedents on abortion and infringes on Constitutional protections.
Biden Administration Takes Aim at Texas Law
The Department of Justice sued Texas on Thursday in an attempt to block the state’s newly enacted law that effectively prohibits all abortions by banning the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The abortion law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person terminate their pregnancy after six weeks.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it violates past Supreme Court precedents through a technical loophole.
While numerous other states have passed similar laws banning abortion after about six weeks, federal judges have struck down those measures on the grounds that they are inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that states cannot prevent someone from seeking an abortion before a fetus can viably live outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
The Texas law, however, skirts the high court decisions by deputizing citizens to enforce the law rather than state government officials, taking the state out of the equation entirely and protecting it from legal responsibility.
Individuals who do so do not have to prove any personal injury or connection to those they take legal action against, which can range from abortion providers to rideshare drivers who take someone to a clinic.
If their lawsuit is successful, the citizen is entitled to a $10,000 award.
DOJ Lawsuit Targets Constitutionality
During a press conference detailing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the enforcement mechanism as “an unprecedented” effort with the “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” to prevent Texans from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, adding that the provision of the law allowing civilians “to serve as bounty hunters” may become “a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department argued that the Texas policy violates equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment as well as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the Constitution and federal law generally take precedence over state law.
The lawsuit also claimed that the law interferes with the constitutional obligation of federal employees to provide access to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, to people who are under the care of federal agencies or contractors such as those in prisons.
Both Sides See Path to Supreme Court
While proponents of abortion rights applauded the Justice Department’s legal challenge, officials in Texas defended the law and accused the Biden administration of filing the lawsuit for political reasons.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), said in a statement.
“We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
The DOJ’s suit will now be decided by a federal judge for the Western District of Texas, based in Austin.
Depending on how that court rules, either opponents or supporters of the abortion ban are expected to appeal the case, sending it to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and likely ultimately placing the matter before the Supreme Court again in a matter of months.
The Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect by declining to approve an emergency petition to block the measure last week, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of the policy.
As a result, the Justice Department’s legal challenge could force the high court to hear another facet of the law that it has not yet considered if it decides to see the case.