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Swing states — focus on three in particular
Every US election is decided by a handful of swing states. Typically states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania carry a significant importance because of the size of their electoral college votes. This election is no different.
In this election cycle we estimate the crucial states will be Florida (FL), Pennsylvania (PA), Ohio (OH), North Carolina (NC), Michigan (MI), and Arizona (AZ). In addition to these key 6 swing states we are also looking closely into Iowa (IA), Wisconsin (WI), New Hampshire (NH), Nevada (NV), Colorado (CO), New Mexico (NM), Georgia (GA), and Texas (TX).
There is a reason for focusing on each of these. The typically important swing states in each election are PA, FL, OH, and NC, but this time MI and WI are also in the loop due to Trump winning there back in 2016. These two states are particularly interesting as they used to be Democratic strongholds, but in 2016 they delivered one of the biggest surprises on Election Night. This cycle a reverse scenario might happen in GA or even TX, typically Republican strongholds, where polling seems to suggest a much tighter race between the two candidates than usual.
However, the crucial swing states which we will pay particularly close attention to will be the following three: Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona.
The reason: mail-in voting due to COVID. 81 million absentee ballots were requested by voters (which is 38% of the electorate), and thus far 13 million ballots were cast (6% of the electorate). Most of these were done in Florida (5.7m), followed by Michigan (2.8m), Pennsylvania (2.6m), etc. The problem is the partisan distribution of mail-in ballots during this election. Much more absentee ballots were requested by Democrats than by Republicans, which could bias the results on Election Night in favor of Trump for those states that count absentee ballots on or after Election Day.
But not the three aforementioned states. These states will be processing and counting their mail-in ballots long before Election Day which means there will be no delay on Election Night and that a winner in these states will already be known on November 3rd. Similar for Georgia and Nevada, although there is less uncertainty over who carries the states. Ohio — a state which every winning presidential candidate typically wins — is also starting early but they could experience a delay in results, and are more likely to have full results by Wednesday rather than Tuesday. For other states, like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin we might wait for weeks before we know the actual results.
Therefore, by focusing on the aforementioned three states (FL, NC, and AZ) in addition to OH, we will be able to anticipate whether or not the elections will cause huge post-electoral uncertainty over the outcome or not.
For example, if Biden secures a sweeping victory in each of these, it is highly unlikely that there will be uncertainty over the final outcome after Election Night. If, however, these states are split between the candidates, or the margins of victory are very low, then the electoral uncertainty might drag on for weeks, or even months.
If Trump wins in all three on Election Night, then the outcome of the election will depend on the results in PA and WI, states that will take a long time to count their mail-in ballots. In that case uncertainty could drag on for months.