Sunday Mirror

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- BY CHRISTO­PHER BUCK­TIN

THE coro­n­avirus pan­demic has changed ev­ery­thing in 2020, in­clud­ing how the US elec­tion will be de­cided.

With two days to go un­til Tues­day’s elec­tion, more than 90 mil­lion bal­lots have al­ready been cast, set­ting new ear­lyvot­ing records.

Here we take a look at

how the count­ing and re­sults will emerge.

When will we know who has won the pres­i­den­tial race?

It’s hard to say. Ex­perts are warn­ing that it may not be clear who’s won for some time af­ter vot­ers have fin­ished cast­ing their bal­lots. Vot­ers should pre­pare “for Elec­tion

Night to ac­tu­ally be Elec­tion Week(s)”, the Na­tional Task Force on Elec­tion Crises warn. We do know that some states won’t have com­plete re­sults for weeks. Al­most half will ac­cept bal­lots that ar­rive by mail af­ter Elec­tion Day if their post­mark in­di­cates they were sent be­fore Tues­day or an ear­lier dead­line.

How do swing states re­port re­sults?

Ear­lier re­sults are likely in

states where vot­ers have widely em­braced postal or early in-per­son vot­ing, so of­fi­cials can process and count bal­lots be­fore Elec­tion Day. Ari­zona, Florida and North Carolina could re­port quickly,

while states in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan could lag be­hind.

Why does an in­crease in mail bal­lots make a dif­fer­ence?

Mail bal­lots must go through sev­eral pro­cesses be­fore they are counted, in­clud­ing a re­view by elec­tion of­fi­cials to en­sure their le­gal­ity. This means it takes more time than count­ing bal­lots cast in per­son at a polling lo­ca­tion. In some states, of­fi­cials are not al­lowed to be­gin pro­cess­ing bal­lots un­til Elec­tion Day. While it may be

slower, there’s no ev­i­dence to sup­port Don­ald Trump’s claim that postal vot­ing leads to wide­spread fraud.

When will the re­sults be­come fi­nal?

Al­though Amer­i­cans typ­i­cally know who wins elec­tions long be­fore the re­sults are de­clared, the of­fi­cial re­sult usu­ally takes place later in Novem­ber and some­times ex­tends into De­cem­ber. This year, close margins will in­crease the like­li­hood of le­gal fights over which bal­lots should count.

Al­ready both can­di­dates have as­sem­bled large le­gal teams to chal­lenge any con­testable re­sult.

What does a can­di­date need to do to win?

The US elec­tion is not based on the pop­u­lar vote but on a sys­tem called the elec­toral col­lege. To gain the White House, both can­di­dates com­pete to win 270 or more of its votes.

Each state gets a cer­tain num­ber of elec­toral col­lege votes, partly based on its pop­u­la­tion, and there are a to­tal of 538 up for grabs. This means vot­ers de­cide statelevel con­tests rather than the na­tional one, which is why a can­di­date can win the most votes na­tion­ally yet still lose. In 2016, Hil­lary Clin­ton se­cured al­most three mil­lion more votes than Don­ald Trump, but he won 304 elec­toral col­lege places to her 227, mak­ing him Pres­i­dent.

When is the ear­li­est an in­di­ca­tion could be seen as to who has won?

It could be in the early hours of Wed­nes­day in the UK when Florida re­ports its count of early votes. If Bi­den wins well, Trump’s race is ef­fec­tively over. Bi­den can lose the Sun­shine State, how­ever, and still ac­quire the keys to the White House.

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