Why You Should Vote Today If You Want Biden to Win
The risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably affect whether people plan to vote in-person or by mail. Unfortunately, President Trump's false claims about voter fraud are making many people understandably nervous about the likelihood of their vote being counted if it is mailed. One of the concerns is that Trump could be leading on election night (since some believe that more Biden supporters will be mailing in ballots) and declare himself the winner before all mailed in votes are actually counted. This brief look at some of they key numbers can be used to consider your own voting strategy.
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Your vote for president only counts in that it helps tip your state* toward one candidate or the other. It's the majority vote statewide that actually decides a share of the total 538 electoral college votes that actually decide the presidency. (A candidate needs 270 electoral college votes to take the election.)
How to Read This Chart: Each column of squares is a state. Each square represents one elector. You can hover over a square to see the state name, as well as the number of electors, its current infection rate per 100K population, the polling advantage for the favored candidate, and when mail-in ballots are due.
Biden Likely Biden ?? Likely Trump Trump
"Leaning" or "battleground" states are those where polling gives a less than 10% advantage to a candidate. If the difference is less than 3%, we don't use color to indicate the favored candidate since the odds are that is a statistical tie, when the margin of error is factored in.
*Maine and Nebraska split their electoral votes differently—each has some statewide electors as well as individual electors selected by congressional district vote majorities.
Paths to 270
Biden appears to have the advantage, according to current polling. As the dotted line advances, stopping once the 270 electoral vote threshold is met, you can see that there are many different states with a large number of electors that are leaning toward Biden, giving him more paths to 270 than Trump, who has a much smaller collection (with fewer electors each) of "guaranteed" states and an even smaller group of battleground states to help in a close race.
COVID-19 throws a wrench in things. Higher risk states (those with higher current infection rates) have now moved to the top, and lower risk states are at the bottom. Biden states are in much better shape, in terms of infection rates, than Trump states (where only two remain in the lower risk category.) So in all the states on the bottom, where people may feel more comfortable voting in person, they should do so.
The states that are faded back only offer in-person voting on November 3. Most states do allow early voting at least a week ahead of the Nov 3 election, so most voters can vote early (and millions have already done so.)
But here is the problem. Only five states that offer allow voting before November 3 actually get a head start tabulating those votes before the election. That means it's very possible ballot counting will extend beyond November 3 in many states. So early voting in California, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, etc., will provide no bulwark against Trump's fraud claims if the results aren't clear on election night. It's worth noting that ballots that are in-hand on election day (whether mail ballots or early voting ballots) are just regular ballots, so it's possible they will be counted just as quickly as any other ballot.
Mail-In Ballot Deadlines
Things are further complicated by the fact that almost half the states have ballot deadlines that go beyond election day. You can see that these tend to be states Biden is favored to win. Specifically, look at the high-COVID-risk battleground states like Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, and even Texas. Or Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, which present a lower COVID risk, but are battlegrounds that could be very close on election night. But some of these states may not have all ballots in for counting for as long as two weeks after election day.
What does this mean? If you want Biden to win, you should vote in person, no matter where you live, so the ballots are guaranteed to be in election officials' hands on Nov 3, ready to be counted. This is especially important if you live in a battleground state, where the likelihood of a close race that can't be called on election night is higher. This is even important in states like California that could have long delays before all can be counted.
Vote in person, or if you must mail in your ballot, mail it as soon as you can. The odds of this election going in Biden's favor go way up if the election is clearly over on election night. Every day beyond Nov 3 creates opporunity for Trump to try to rush the process, dispute results, and generally wreak nonsensical havoc.