At 7 p. m. (Eastern Time, which applies to all times mentioned here), we’ll start to see returns from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. Donald Trump won all four of these states in 2016 and needs to win them again in 2020. The good news for viewers is that we should see relatively quick results in these key states, all of which are allowed to start processing (i. e., opening envelopes, validating signatures or even counting) their early votes and mail ballots before Election Day.
Because registered Democrats have voted by mail in larger numbers than Republicans (although we don’t yet know who they voted for), Joe Biden is likely to jump out to an early lead in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, which report pre-Election Day votes first. But it’s the size of that likely lead that will matter most. The question will be whether, with votes still to be counted, Biden is ahead by enough to stay ahead.
It will be important for everyone — voters, journalists, pundits and politicians — to resist jumping to conclusions based on these initial numbers. Even if one candidate’s early lead is large, it will still need to be weighed against any outstanding votes.
That said, the major television networks and the Associated Press rely on teams of expert analysts to scour county-by-county returns and determine when enough votes have been tallied to call the state for one candidate or the other.
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