Election Results Will Come With Drama. Stay Informed and Stay Calm.
According to the Real Clear Politics national average, former Vice President Joe Biden is up by 7.2 points in the national polls as of Tuesday morning, but we became acutely aware in 2016 that polls can’t always, or should seldom be, trusted. Out of caution, neither campaign seems to be paying much attention to those numbers, instead opting to keep up efforts to get out the supporter vote.
So far, the nation has responded in a big way.
John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling has been tracking the number of ballots received ahead of Election Day and he reported Tuesday morning that U.S. voters had already cast a staggering 101 million ballots, either by mail or at early in-person polling sites. Millions of ballots were received from voters in just the nine-county Bay Area region before the big day.
Roughly 136.5 million total registered voters participated in the 2016 General Election. Basically, we’re on track to shatter records, which is a good thing.
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However, that kind of volume doesn’t make for the fastest tabulation process, especially with the influx of mail-in ballots relied on during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prolonging election results even more are the crazy number of legal challenges, both active and inevitably to come. The Trump campaign folks have resorted to some pretty shady methods in the leadup to Election Day and while the Biden campaign legal team is ready to respond, it could take days, weeks or even months to really settle the score in the most contentious and consequential election of our lifetime.
In order to manage the stress and anxiety many are feeling today, it’s important that we first manage our expectations. Knowing what to expect and when will be key in keeping the heart rate down.
Here are some important things to look out for.
Ranked-choice voting drama
On a local level, the move toward ranked-choice voting may in fact produce more fair results in candidate races, but the “instant runoff” method also adds to confusion for people watching results like hawks, and takes more time to determine true winners. Some cities that have turned to ranked-choice voting include San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro.
With RCV races, voters are asked to select a first, second and third choice of candidates. If any one person receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a winner is quickly established. But as Vox explains well:
“If one candidate has an outright majority of first-place rankings, that candidate wins, just like a traditional election. But if no candidate has a majority in the first round, the candidate in last place is eliminated. Voters who had ranked that candidate first have their votes transferred to their backup — that is, the candidate they ranked second. This process continues until a single candidate gathers a majority.”
It can be a grueling process and results shift. It’s almost better not to watch those numbers until a true winner is identified, or you could drive yourself crazy.
The Red Mirage
As most of us are well aware by now, Trump supporters have been collectively less serious about the health risks associated with COVID-19. Where many Democrats were happy to take advantage of safe mail-in voting, it’s widely expected that many Republicans will be lined up at in-person polling locations Tuesday.
The Trump campaign has been actively pursuing lawsuits in several states in an attempt to force election departments to delay counting mail-in ballots until Wednesday. If successful, the results will be skewed to the right, giving Trump the opportunity to claim he’s winning ahead of all ballots being counted. He may even try to declare a victory pretty early in the night.
This is where people must remain calm and wait to see what happens after all voter choices are accounted for. Basically, ignore the bluster.
We’ll likely have to stay that course for some time if a clear decision isn’t established Tuesday. Trump has repeatedly said he would challenge election results in court and fully expects those cases to reach the top of the chain at the Supreme Court, but the legal team Biden has put together is more than capable and prepared to meet those challenges as they come.
This election could be painfully slow to wait through, but the pain we’ve endured over the past four years has been good practice. Try not to overreact too soon — we’ll get through this together.