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When will we know the outcome of the 2020 presidential election? Dr Trevor McCrisken explains

Are we likely to know the next President of the USA on Wednesday morning? US politics expert Dr Trevor McCrisken from the Department of Politics and International Studies explains:-

"Election Day is upon us. With an unprecedented 90 million Americans already having cast their votes early, the final push is all about getting as many supporters as possible to turnout to vote.

"Early indications are that Biden and the Democrats are doing very well but they'll be trying to convince their remaining supporters not to be complacent and to get to the polling stations; for Trump and the Republicans turnout is also crucial as they hope for a late surge of support to secure four more years in the White House and to retain control of the Senate in the US Congress.

"One big question is how long it will take to know the results. Different states have different rules about when they can count postal votes and the millions of in-person votes cast early. Others will accept postal votes that are postmarked up to and including Election Day itself. Many states will be declared overnight on Tuesday into Wednesday as per usual, but several crucial states may take much longer to be decided if no clear winner emerges and the vote counts and recounts go on for days or even weeks.

"If one candidate or other emerges with a strong lead across 25 to 30 states then we're likely to know the winner of the presidential race on Wednesday. But if the margins are as close as they have been in recent elections in crucial swing states then it could take much longer for the results to become clear. Legal challenges to swing state results are very likely, especially if Biden or Trump has only won those states by relatively small numbers. We may not know the winner for several days - if not weeks or even a couple of months!

"The last disputed presidential election in 2000 was not decided until the US Supreme Court intervened in mid-December to stop recounts in Florida, meaning that George W. Bush defeated Al Gore. The courts could again be crucial in settling the contests this year, not only in Florida but in other swing states if the voting margins are very close. With Trump and Senate Republicans having successfully tipped the balance to conservatives on the Supreme Court, newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could prove a significant character in this year's election battle."

3 November 2020

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