The answer is that we may know, but it is very unlikely that the elections will be announced by a television station or a media channel on election night. And there are two main reasons for that:
Although the national polls largely match Hillary Clinton’s lead – she had a lead of 2.8 million votes – there is no doubt that President Donald Trump’s victory four years ago was a surprise to almost everyone. Among them are media organisations mocking elections in the hope of nominating individual bartering states as candidates and eventually announcing the next president long before they vote themselves.
As a result of this shock to the political system four years ago, which was largely due to Mr Trump’s ability to lure non-traditional voters to the polls, great caution will be exercised in making predictions about both the near winner and the winner.
The nightmare scenario for anyone trying to project the next president is the scenario that occurred in 2000, when Florida was called up and then withdrew when more information (and votes) became available.
Nobody wants to see that again, especially given Mr Trump’s repeated assertions, which he did not say, that the elections were somehow manipulated.
2) Early mass reconciliation:
Due to the combination of a coronavirus pandemic and the fact that a number of states have changed their laws to facilitate voting by post or in person (as a result of the virus), the number of votes cast for early voting is historically high. In Texas, for example, by 2016 more people will have voted earlier than before – both early and on election day.
We’ve never experienced anything like these early moods, especially since we haven’t had to deal with a deadly pandemic like Covid-19 in 100 years. Because the early voting took place through a glass wall, it is even more difficult than usual to produce accurate models of voter turnout on which the networks base their predictions.
Does the increase in early voting mean that fewer people will vote in person on Tuesday? Or will the turnout on election day be proportional to the early elections? Somewhere in between?
Nobody… …and I mean no one… knows the answer to those questions. And that means that those responsible for convening the states (and the White House) will be very alert to the signals sent out by their votes.
Add all this and you’ll understand why it’s good to stay up late on the third day. November (or very early November 4th) may not mean that you will know the identity of the next president.
Careful, careful… …always… …when you announce something as monumental as the next president of the United States. But it is even more important to be cautious when making such a prediction against the backdrop of a pandemic and with a man in the White House who has clearly expressed his (false) belief that something bad is going on during the vote.
It’s better to be right than the first. And that has never been as true as it was in this election.