They will announce not only the provenance of the ballots, but also the manner in which these ballots were cast. This distinction is crucial, because mail-in voting will look Democratically in most states, while in-person voting will look Republican. But no one knows exactly how big the bias will be – so it will be extremely difficult to analyze the vote tally that does not distinguish between in-person and mail ballots.
Because Florida, Georgia and North Carolina will all make the distinction, these are the only three states for which The Times is creating versions of its Election Night Hand this year. The hands will show the percentage of chances of victory for Trump or Biden in each state, as it changes tonight, based on the ballots counted.
There will be no national needle this year. “The limits of the data available make it simply too risky to be responsible”, Nate Cohn of The Times tweeted.
Bottom line: While Biden looks set to lose Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, he’s no longer a big favorite to win. This would suggest that the polls had underestimated Trump’s support. In the FiveThirtyEight simulations, Biden has about a 50% chance of winning if he loses the three Southeast swing states. He would then probably need to win at least Pennsylvania or Arizona.
The Senate. North Carolina will be important for a second reason: it is home to one of the Senate races most likely to determine Senate control. If Democrat Cal Cunningham defeats incumbent Republican President Thom Tillis, it will mean Democrats are on track to hold at least 50 Senate seats in January.
A second major Senate race takes place in Maine, where polls close at 8 p.m. Maine’s ranked choice voting system means official results may not be counted for several days. But if Democratic challenger Sara Gideon wins more than 47% of the vote in the first round, she’ll be in good shape to beat the Republican incumbent Susan Collins, Colby College’s Dan Shea told us.
In Arizona and Colorado, where polls close at 9 p.m., Democratic challengers are favored. Winning those four seats – and the vice presidency, which severed ties with the Senate – will likely be enough to give Democrats control of the Senate. They also have a decent chance of winning in South Carolina (where the polls close at 7 p.m.), Iowa (10 p.m.), Montana (10 p.m.), and Georgia, where one or both races may end. qualify for the January playoffs.