Millions head to the polls for the most significant election in modern history
“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” - Thomas Jefferson
After an excruciating campaign season, the 2020 Election gets underway today. The monumental election is likely to play out as a referendum on the controversies and capabilities of the 45th President. In the polarized nation, nearly half of the country has been counting the days until the end of Trump’s presidency; the other half hope it never ends. The country is politically, economically and emotionally strained as the polls open.
The first polls have opened in the Eastern Standard Time zone. Preparedness for in-person voting varies slightly along the East Coast. In absence of an organized federal response to the pandemic, states in the Northeast have been cooperating on public health endeavors and have expanded no-excuse vote-by-mail to every registered voter across all nine states. New York’s Governor Cuomo published a guidebook of minimum safety thresholds for in-person voting during the pandemic; the guidebook was later cosigned by all the governors of the region. The in-person polls will also serve as a trial run for a new contact tracing system the Northeastern governors have jointly planned to implement.
Joe Biden made a statement calling for calm and patience in the nation during today’s tense observation of the election. He then cast his ballot in Wilmington, Delaware. In Florida’s 2020 primary, the President and the First Lady cast absentee ballots. Given the Trumps are presently at White House with no scheduled departure, it is safe to assume they have done the same in this cycle.
Every polling location in the continental US is open and turn-out will likely eclipse 2008 with both Democrats and Republicans energized by the importance of today's vote. Even though masks have been proven to dramatically slow the spread of the virus by up to 75%, PPE is not required in polling locations in much of the Midwest and Southeast. Face coverings have become a uniform of political affiliation.
Driven by an attack-filled summer, political discord in America has grown to such polarizing ends that loyalists have come to see the opposing party not merely as political rivals but as ideological enemies that must be defeated at all costs. The battle lines are clearly drawn with an extremely close race expected. However, recent polling shows voters who dislike both candidates, a demographic Trump dominated by 17 points in 2016, are leaning to Joe Biden by about that same margin. This potentially determinative statistic will be important to watch.
In Georgia, it appears residents of urban areas who did not receive vote-by-mail ballots have taken to the polls with determination. Evidently, the excruciatingly long lines have not affected turnout. Stacy Abrams and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ numerous joint appearances seem to have vitalized the base in a way reminiscent of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court vote in April. After an election day postponement was denied by the state's Republican Supreme court, constituents took to the polls in droves during a Coronavirus spike and voted out one of the judiciaries that put them at risk.
Also in Georgia, Senator Kelly Loeffler will attempt to hold onto her seat in a jungle election, which combines the primary and general into one election with multiple candidates from each party on the ballot. If no candidate receives greater than 50%, a run-off will ensue in January. Doug Collins, a Republican, and three Democrats join Loeffler on the ballot. Polling is showing Loeffler’s endorsement from President Trump might not be enough to protect her from a run-off scenario. If close, the excessively long lines could cause the race in Georgia to go late into the evening.
Exit polling is indicating Joe Biden is accumulating a propitious popular vote lead. For the small cross-section of voters that were undecided at the start of 2020, the handling of Coronavirus has been a defining issue. Fear of Coronavirus as a viable excuse for requesting an absentee ballot was a legal controversy based in Texas but was ruled as constitutionally valid by a federal judge. Voters electing to submit a ballot-by-mail in states with minimal social-distancing enforcement are clearly making a statement about the GOP’s rejection of the pandemic’s danger.
An early winter storm sweeping through the Ohio Valley has dampened the turnout in several districts. It does not appear to be enough to change any projected outcomes, but it is enough to make the region’s collective decision not expand and encourage vote-by-mail look like a mistake.
In the wake of the armed occupation of the Michigan State House in April, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared there would be zero tolerance for intimidation at the polls. Several men in Port Huron have been forcibly removed by state police after positioning themselves at a polling location wielding automatic weapons and tactical gear. Michigan state law permits open-carry firearms but whether guns are allowed within a polling location is not directly addressed in the state’s election law. Intimidation is a subjective term but it is clear Whitmer is taking a pragmatic stance on what Michiganders are allowed to bring to the polls. Police presence has been greatly expanded at the polls in several states.
As polls get ready to close on the East Coast, it appears to be a frenetic yet peaceful election day. Biden surrogates are actively touting a large majority in the popular vote they hope will translate into electoral victory. Alternatively, Trump surrogates at polling locations all over the country are reporting “irregularities” on social media although no evidence is being presented. Fox News is voicing similar suspicions in their coverage of the election but has not elaborated on what infractions are occurring.
07:45PM: D 3 - R 0
Senator Bernie Sanders congratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on winning Vermont, the first state decided in the election. With most polls closed on the East Coast, and considerable exit polling data in the Midwest, the predicted geographic lines of support are rapidly becoming clear.
In the Senatorial race in Maine, things are tightly knotted right now, but looking difficult for Republican incumbent Susan Collins. The balance of remaining votes to be counted are primarily coming in from Portland, the largest city in the state and a perennial Democratic stronghold.
10:15PM: D 91 - R 1
Biden has secured the entire Northeast and Washington DC with the exception of one vote from Maine, which practices split electorate voting. Biden is expected to win several states in the Northeast by margins greater than ten points which would give him a popular vote command of the region in excess of four million. Pennsylvania, Biden’s original home state, is the only state in the region that is undecided. Governor Tom Wolf had expressed concern about results from his state being delayed when the Post Office went underfunded in the fourth stimulus bill. #BlueTsunami is trending on Twitter as the Presidential, Senatorial and House elections are all tilting in the Democrats favor early on. As expected, Florida remains too close to call.
10:50PM: D 124 - R 93
Trump has had a massive gain this hour as Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and most of the Gulf states go red. Trump’s margin in Kentucky took a dip compared to 2016, possibly endangering Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s seat; the race between the 22 year incumbent and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath remains undecided.
Florida has seen dramatic turn-out in its political bastions. The early vote count is showing heavy turnout for Trump in the I-4 corridor, while equally strong Democratic support is coming from the vote-rich Miami-Dade county. It is possible we will not have a definitive result from Florida tonight, a smoldering reminder of the 2000 election.
Trump is expected to secure Texas in the wake of Tesla’s successful relocation to the Lone Star state, where relaxed Coronavirus measures have calmed the shareholders but not yet stabilized the state’s middle class economy. Just after Labor Day, Elon Musk made a cringe-inducing announcement on TikTok that he has officially joined the Republican Party.
Beto O’Rourke canvassed hard for Biden in Texas, but ultimately will not be able to deliver. Texas is an exceptionally difficult and expensive state to advertise in, with four major TV markets (and 22 smaller ones) spread out over hundreds of miles. The rapidly changing demographics will eventually make Texas a swing state, but not this time.
Barack Obama was on Instagram Live with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this week hosting a tutorial of how to properly submit an absentee ballot in Illinois. The Prairie State has responded accordingly with Biden projected to win by nine points. Biden also took Virginia by a close margin. Subsequently, a small faction of GOP representatives from deep red districts took to the airwaves to call for a redrawing of the state lines that will put them in West Virginia.
11:45PM: D 150 - R 164
Trump jumps out to his first lead of the night as North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina have all been called for him. Amy Klobuchar, despite expressing disappointment for not being chosen as VP, worked hard for and delivered a Biden victory in Minnesota. Images of George Floyd have been plastered around Minneapolis, serving as a reminder to voters of the chaos that ensued under the Trump presidency. The Democrats scored big in Michigan despite the earlier theatrics from the extreme right. Biden won the state and incumbent Democratic Gary Peters defended his Senate seat.
The Senate races are just as close as the Presidential race. Mitch McConnell swung a tight victory against a valiant effort from former fighter pilot Amy McGrath. In the surprise of the night, the AP is calling the Senatorial race in South Carolina for Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. Lindsey Graham is a reliable ally for both Trump and McConnell and losing him in the Senate is a serious blow to the GOP’s prospects for the remainder of night. Maine has finally turned on Susan Collins and elected Democratic challenger Sara Gideon. Collins’ perpetual waffling, only to wind up voting with Trump 67% of the time did not sit well in the Pine Tree State and led to her dismissal. With undecided Senate races all over the country, including two in Georgia, majority power in the Senate remains up for grabs.
Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, the last remaining states on Eastern Standard Time, are all too close to call in the presidential election. Down the ballot, Democrats are running up the score in dense urban areas and have secured another solid majority in the House. Despite being down, team Biden remains upbeat with the reliably blue West Coast and new swing states Colorado, Nevada and Arizona waiting to be called.
12:15AM: D 164 - R 180
Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Iowa have all been called almost simultaneously for Trump. Republicans also defended their Senate seats with narrow victories in Iowa and North Carolina but the Senate race in Montana between Republican Incumbent Steve Daines and former 2020 Presidential candidate Steve Bullock is too close to call.
Although currently behind in the Electoral College, the Democrats just scored a series of important Senatorial victories, flipping Cory Gardner’s seat in Colorado, defeating Martha McSally in Arizona and winning the vacant seat in New Mexico. Democrats now have at least a tie or better in the Senate for the first time since 2015. However, if the Democrats are unable to secure one more Senate seat or win the Electoral College, the power of the Senate will remain with the Republicans in the Vice Presidential tie-breaker.
Despite Mitt Romney’s cryptic call for Utahns to vote their conscience, Trump is projected to take the reliably Republican state and its 6 electors. But nationally, Trump is facing a popular vote deficit of approximately one million and a shrinking margin in the Senate. The GOP is on the ropes.
From his campaign headquarters, an apoplectic Lindsey Graham gave a sneering, vindictive concession speech trashing both the electoral process and his non-voting constituents. It was immediately met with strong criticism in news coverage and social media. #Grahamhole is the number one trending topic on Twitter at this late hour.
12:45AM: D 248 - R 189
California has been called for Biden. Projections are showing Biden may receive as many as ten million votes from the nation’s most populous state--doubtlessly in part to Kamala Harris’ tenure as Attorney General and Senator of the state.
With a full sweep of the West Coast, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii, Biden and Harris have surged ahead in the Electoral College and popular vote. Donald Trump picked up two reliably Republican states in Alaska and Utah, but it pales in comparison to Biden’s electoral haul on the West Coast.
Despite the thrashing in the popular vote and a present deficit in the Electoral College, Republicans have been able to muster up a bit of momentum with major developments in the Senate. Republican Incumbent David Perdue defended his Senate seat in Georgia after a close election with Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. In a surprisingly strange turn of events, AP has downgraded Jaime Harrison’s Senate victory in South Carolina to undecided after crates of ballots from the 3rd district initially went uncounted. The controversy is being closely monitored by Lindsey Graham’s team.
If Republicans sweep the remaining Senatorial Elections, they will hold a 51-49 outright majority in the Senate--but more importantly, Mitch McConnell will remain in the most powerful role in the Senate, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
2:30AM: D 259 - R 189
The Democrats flipped Arizona on the Senate level earlier, and they have just done it in the Presidential election. These sudden changes to Arizonian politics moves the Grand Canyon state with its 11 electoral votes decidedly blue and speaks to a desired ideological change--which could spell trouble for Republican Governor Doug Ducey who will be up for reelection in 2023.
The remaining races in the southeast, Senatorial and Presidential, are too close to call. Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, three states Trump won last cycle, are all undecided.
3:00AM: D 259 - R 189
Press reports have become pessimistic a winner will be decided tonight. Pennsylvania has suspended counting for the night and will resume in the afternoon.
Florida, a critical state year-in and year-out, is extremely tight with a slight edge to Trump. As it stands now, if Biden wins any more states, with the exception of Wisconsin, he will win the Electoral College. If Biden takes Wisconsin he will need to win an additional state for him to cross the threshold of 270 for an Electoral College victory.
3:45AM D 259 - R 189
The press core has turned in for the night with five states totalling 90 electoral college votes undecided. It has become universally understood we will not know who won this election until this afternoon, or even later. Nancy Pelosi, who will likely return as Speaker of a 236-199 Democratic House, voiced concern for Trump using this window of uncertainty to spark an electoral crisis.
Both sides are playing the situation close to the chest due to the unfolding drama in the Senate. With a 49D-48R count and Senatorial elections in Georgia, South Carolina and Montana undecided, all outcomes are possible including a Democratic outright majority, a Republican outright majority or the Vice Presidential tie-breaker, which of course, is still unknown.
For Donald Trump to be reelected, he’ll need a full sweep of the five undecided states, including Joe Biden’s home state of Pennsylvania.
Dispatch270 will resume reporting promptly at 6:00am.