Live results: 2020 presidential election

November 3 is the last day of voting in the 2020 election, and the long race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is coming to a close.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has not been a normal election year. Over 99.5 million ballots — well over two-thirds the total votes cast in the 2016 election — have already been cast either through the mail, or in person during the early voting period in some states.

Because of the myriad ways people are casting their ballots this year, it could take longer to count the votes and know who won the election than it has in past years. There’s no guarantee we’ll know whether Trump or Biden won the election until the day (or days) after November 3. Here’s how Vox (and other media outlets) will be making calls throughout the night and following days.

The earliest polls start closing at 6 pm ET, while the latest states close at 12 am ET (Alaska) and 1 am ET (Hawaii). Vox is carrying live results, powered by our friends at Decision Desk.

How long could it take for us to know who won the election?

It’s tough to know, but it’s good to prepare for the possibility that we may not know the result on election night. Here’s why.

There are six main battleground states whose voters will likely determine the outcome of the election: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop recently wrote, these states can be split into two groups — states that will be able to count the vote quickly, and states where it could take much longer to know the outcome.

Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina fall into the first category. These three states have all been processing mailed-in ballots for weeks (Florida and Arizona, in particular, have used vote-by-mail in the past and officials there are familiar with how the system works). As Prokop notes, these weeks of preparation should help local and state voting officials to be ready and able to count the votes fairly quickly on November 3:

The result will be that, in each of these states, a large “dump” of already-counted early vote totals (which can include in-person early votes, too, or be tabulated separated) will be announced relatively early on election night.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are a different story. Republican state legislatures in all three states refused to let election officials start processing ballots early (it should be noted that this isn’t a partisan issue everywhere, since Florida, Arizona and North Carolina also have state legislatures controlled by Republicans). In other words, these states haven’t been able to get a jump on processing ballots. Prokop writes:

As a result, the time-consuming process of determining whether each mail-in ballot was properly cast can’t start until Election Day itself (the Michigan GOP deigned to let some areas of the state start one day early).

Because of these differing procedures to process and count votes, it could take longer to know the final count. That also means early returns could be misleading because they won’t necessarily include all of the absentee ballots that still need to be processed by some states like the midwestern ones.

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Especially if more Democrats vote by mail, there is the possibility early in-person voting returns will show more favorable results for Trump (the president has also been painting mail-in ballots as fraudulent for months, even though he himself voted by mail this year in Florida). Conversely, there are other states where Democrats could appear to be in the lead, only for the “blue mirage” to fade as more day-of votes get counted. It’s good to keep in mind that it could take much longer to count mail-in ballots and get the full picture of who has won.

What the latest polls say about who’s ahead

The last batch of polling for the election shows pretty consistent election results: Biden is in the lead, both in national and state-level polling. Still, the Democrats’ lead in battleground states is narrower — and those are the states that could ultimately decide the election.

Biden’s lead is larger in national polls, and has remained pretty stable for months. The FiveThirtyEight national polling average shows the Democrat with close to a 9-point lead, while the RealClearPolitics national polling average shows Biden with over a 7-point lead.

There are fears that the polls could get the election wrong, like some did in 2016. But it’s important to note that Biden’s lead has been much more stable than Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead at this point in the 2016 race, where the margin became much closer.

Battleground state polls are tighter than national ones, but Biden is still in the lead. (Remember, battleground states like Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — and a few others — are ones that will have a big hand in determining the outcome of the election.)

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We’ve gotten a number of higher-quality polls out in the last few days before the election. Let’s break them down by state.

Florida

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released November 1 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 3.2-point sampling margin of error.
  • A Monmouth University poll released October 29 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 5 points, 50 percent to 45 percent, among registered voters. That poll had a 4.4-point margin of error.
  • An NBC News and Marist University poll released October 29 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 3 points, 51 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4.4-point margin of error.

North Carolina

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released October 29 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 3 points, 48 to 45 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4-point margin of error.

Arizona

  • An NBC/Marist College poll released November 2 showed Biden and Trump tied at 48 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4.5-point margin of error.
  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released November 1 found Biden ahead of Trump by 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 3-point margin of error.
  • A Reuters/Ipsos poll released October 28 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 2 points, 49 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4-point margin of error.

Pennsylvania

  • A Monmouth University poll released November 2 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 5 points, 50 percent to 45 percent, among registered voters. That poll had a 4.4-point margin-of-error.
  • An NBC/Marist College poll released November 2 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 5 points, 51 percent to 46 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4.4-point margin of error.
  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released November 1 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 6 points, 49 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 2.4-point margin-of-error.
  • A Quinnipiac University poll released October 29 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 7 points, 51 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 2.7-point margin of error.

Michigan

  • An EPIC-MRA poll released November 1 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 7 points, 48 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4-point margin of error.
  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released October 28 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 4-point margin of error.
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Wisconsin

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll released November 1 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 11 points, 52 to 41 percent, among likely voters. That poll had a 3.2 point margin of error.
  • A Marquette Law School poll released October 28 showed Biden ahead of Trump by 5 points, 48 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. The poll had a 4.3 percent margin of error.

Other swing states to watch include Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, and Texas. Polling shows most of these states also very close, and they are all states Trump won in 2016. If any swing to Biden in 2020, it could spell a bad night for the president.

Both Biden and Trump have a tight line to walk in the 2020 presidential race. We’ll likely know the outcome soon enough.