Let’s get this out of the way first: It is highly unlikely that we’ll find out the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday, November 3rd. In 2016, the Associated Press called the race at 2:29 am EST. And in a scenario like this year, where many people opted to vote by mail (and each state has their own rules about how and when they’re allowed to start processing and then counting the votes), we’re definitely going to need more time than that. But without the suspense of finding out who won on the actual night of the election, will people still tune in for the election night coverage?
That’s a good question. At this point, a lot of people will likely opt out for a variety of reasons (we won’t have an answer, it’s triggering, they can’t look at that the president’s face without spiraling into a fit of rage, etc). Then there are those who already know they will not be able to look away, even if they know the coverage of results coming in is only going to make their anxiety worse. If, like me, you fall into the latter category, here are some strategies from David Lauter at the Los Angeles Times that could help.
Yes, a lot of people have voted early, and some pundits are making predictions based on this. But Lauter says that’s not a good idea. Why? “The pandemic has changed voting behavior so much that in most states, we have almost no past history by which to judge what the early vote numbers mean,” he writes.
If you’ve read any of our election coverage over the past few months, you’re probably familiar with the fact that many voting policies and laws come at a state level. This means some states will have results much faster than others.
According to Lauter, Florida and North Carolina expect to have their results the night of November 3rd, while Pennsylvania and Michigan may take until Friday. And even then, given that the president has repeatedly refused to agree to a peaceful transfer of power in the event he loses, even if we do have a “result,” that definitely does not mean we’ll know who’ll be inaugurated in January 2021.
After four years of waiting for this night, it’ll be hard not to pay attention to exit polls, but that’s exactly what Lauter recommends. “Exit polls can provide a great tool for understanding the election, but the early results are only partial and often misleading—just ask John Kerry, who had a big lead in the early exit polls in 2004, which vanished as more data arrived,” he writes.