Big gulp. It’s election night, and with record numbers of postal voters, the fate of the free world is already partly sealed, coursing round the country in ballot boxes. With nearly one hundred million early votes, the figure is already at three-quarters of 2016’s total. And you thought that was divisive? Remember? The night you stayed up till 7am, bleary eyed, slurping milkshake, chewing on, and eventually, sobbing into, the sleeve of your Hillary sweater?
BBC One’s US Election 2020 coverage starts at 11.30pm (half an hour before the first presidential poll closes) and finishes at 1pm tomorrow. Expect granular analysis and live reporting from battleground states, from the likes of Nick Byrant and Emily Maitlis. In it for the long run? CNN’s coverage runs through until 9pm on Thursday, but, if the predictions of hopeless protraction are anything to go by, even that won’t be enough. It’s set to be messy and chaotic and oh my god, can we just get on with it already?
It could be days, even weeks. The USA has nine different time zones, meaning different states stop voting at different times. Votes will be heavily skewed at certain points during the evening depending on when mail ballots, in-person early votes and Election Day votes are counted. In some instances votes will come in a lot quicker, in others they will be fitfully slow. If Biden or Trump confidently win key states however, the result will start to reveal itself.
Yes, if a result is deemed too tight, victory can be slogged out in the courts. In 2000 the Bush v Gore election culminated in a Supreme Court decision that went by the same name. Eventually, despite capturing the popular vote, Gore accepted the Supreme Court’s decision, and victory was Bush’s for the taking. If it goes to the Supreme Court, well… you know what happened with Justice Amy Coney Barrett? Yes, a 6 - 3 conservative majority would see Trump triumph.
Swing states are most likely to determine who gets more Electoral College votes, and therefore, who wins. The most important ones to keep an eye on include Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin. In 2016, Trump won all six. Florida is hugely important because it has 29 electoral college votes to give out, and they count famously fast. Since 1964, the state has always supported the winning candidate, meaning it’s a pretty accurate barometer of victory. Thus far, polls have tipped Biden with the Sunshine State’s advantage.