By Joe DeMartin ’21 (he/him), Senior Political Correspondent
So, the 2020 Election is upon us! There is going to be a lot of information flooding our social media feeds and running through cable news channels. And we’re here to help — as best we can — parse through it all. Here’s what to watch for on Election Night 2020.
1. Don’t Trust Information from Unverified Sources.
There is a potential for quite a lot of disinformation to fly around on election night. We know that foreign actors are trying their hardest to undermine American democracy. So, while that social media post might really confirm your priors and might feel really good to repost, refrain from spreading false news and potentially confusing your followers, friends, and family. There are three major sources for election results: The Associated Press collects precinct-level results and disseminates those to major outlets like the New York Times and NPR; other major networks like ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC work with Edison Research to conduct exit polling to make their calls; and a site called Decision Desk HQ gets their own results in a similar manner to the AP and has provided results for outlets like FiveThirtyEight, Buzzfeed, and Axios. Of course, State Boards of Election and other government sources will have their own counts running too. Make sure any information about results you look at or share comes from these reputable sources.
2. Patience is a Virtue.
Be. Patient. This election is unlike any other in modern history because we’re voting in the middle of a global pandemic. Already over 59 million people have voted by mail in this election — up from 33 million in 2016. And that means it will take a long time to count votes and get a final tally, especially in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where mail-in votes are not counted until after Election Day. FiveThirtyEight has also made a fantastically detailed guide as to when to expect results to come in. But it’s critical to note that accuracy in results reporting must come before speed. Final vote tallies are never determined on Election Day, so calls from Republicans to end the election on November 3rd or to declare victory before all the votes are counted are disenfranchising to folks who have cast perfectly legitimate ballots by mail.
3. States to Watch.
Certain states are extremely likely to go blue (like Massachusetts and California), and other states are extremely likely to go red (like Oklahoma and Wyoming). But those states in the middle, the swing states, are the ones that will decide the election. FiveThirtyEight has a really helpful tool called a Snake Chart that helps us visualize what states are the most important ones for each candidate to win. The states closer to the middle of the chart (North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania) are likely to be the states that decide the outcome of the election.
4. Counties to Watch.
And last but not least, if you want to get really wonky and nerdy on election night, there are several counties throughout the country that may give us an indication of who will be victorious in the election. Dave Wasserman, the House editor at The Cook Political Report, recently wrote a piece in The New York Times about ten counties to keep your eye on during the election. In North Carolina specifically, we have several bellwether counties for our state and one for the entire country. Jackson, Hyde, and Caswell Counties have voted the same way as the state of North Carolina in the past three elections (Obama, Romney, Trump). Robeson County has voted the same way as the country as a whole in the past three elections (Obama, Obama, Trump). These counties may give us some insight into the broader trends of the state as the night goes on.
5. Don’t Ignore the Down-Ballot Races
While lots of attention and energy will be spent covering the presidential race, there are extremely important down-ballot races that we’re voting for this November — Senate, Governor, State House, and many more. Those races will also have an effect on our lives. You can check out a brief summary of most of the races we’re voting for this election in our Davidson Voter Guide.
I know this is kind of cheating because, by election night, you will have hopefully voted. But the most important thing you can do in preparation for the election is vote! Polls are open on Tuesday, November 3rd from 6:30am to 7:30pm at Davidson Elementary. Davidson Votes will have shuttles running from 9:00am to 6:00pm because the walk is a little long. Election night will be stressful, but the determining factor will be turnout. So do your part this year and get out the vote!
No matter how you choose to spend your election night, if you follow these few steps, it may be less stressful. The critical thing to keep in mind is that the election is one of America’s strongest institutions. We must work every day to ensure that that institution remains intact.