Nov 03, 2020

The Count is a daily newsletter and live show from The Appeal and NowThis, focused on what happens in the scenario that the 2020 presidential race is too close to call on election night, if President Donald Trump makes good on his promise to not accept the election results, and what we can do in the 77 days between election day and the inauguration to uphold our democracy.

Today, we’ll look at:

  • What President Donald Trump has recently said about trying to claim victory, or even steal, this election.
  • What you need to know about the battleground states as results start being released tonight.

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  • It’s finally election day.
  • 35 days until the deadline for all ballots to be counted.
  • 41 days until electoral college slates send their votes to Congress.
  • 64 days until Congress counts electoral college votes.
  • 78 days until inauguration day.


  • 97 million votes were cast before polls opened this morning.
  • 70% of the number of total votes in 2016 have been cast before election day.
  • 4 battleground states hit more than 90% of their 2016 turnout just in early voting: Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Texas hit 108%.
  • 90% is Biden’s chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight.
  • 270 is the Electoral College number each candidate is trying to get to.


Election day is finally here. Yet before bleary-eyed, well-masked poll workers began flinging open the doors to polling places at 5 a.m. this morning, more than 97 million ballots had already been cast. Of those, nearly 62 million were mail-in ballots–which is roughly half the total number of votes cast in 2016.

That means this election would be unprecedented under any circumstances. But to add to it, the President of the United States and his allies have repeatedly signaled their intentions to declare victory early, discredit and legally challenge mail-in ballots in the courts, or, if necessary, select competing slates of electors for Trump to steal the election.

In the last week Trump made these plans clearer than ever before:

  • “The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!” –Trump tweeted on Friday
  • “We should know the result of the election on Nov. 3. The evening of Nov. 3. That’s the way it’s been, and that’s the way it should be.” –Trump told a rally in Iowa on Sunday
  • “I think it’s terrible when we can’t know the results of an election on the night of the election … We’re going to go in the night of—as soon as the election is over—we’re going in with our lawyers.” — Trump told reporters on Sunday in North Carolina
  • “Hopefully, the few states remaining that want to take a lot of time after November 3 to count ballots, that won’t be allowed by the various courts,” Trump told reporters in Nevada last week.
  • Trump also told confidants that he’ll declare victory if he looks to be “ahead” tonight, three sources reportedly told Axios. Trump later denied this.

“Trump understands how everybody treats this election like the Super Bowl, every election like the Super Bowl. He understands that everybody wants to get a result on election night and he is going to exploit that desire.” –The Count co-host Alana Sivin

And Trump isn’t the only one.

  • We’ve previously reported how Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has said Trump will declare victory when he is “pretty far ahead” around 10 or 11 p.m. tonight.
  • Trump Senior campaign adviser Jason Miller falsely claimed on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that Trump will have an electoral college lead tonight “probably getting 280 electorals” and that Democrats are “going to try to steal it back after the election.” (To be clear: Electoral college votes aren’t cast until Dec. 14, and we won’t know the legitimate Elector count until all ballots have been counted in each state.)
  • Trump’s advisers are also hoping the race will be too close to call, allowing Trump to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots, according to The New York Times.

“What we’re really talking about here is the equivalent of a team claiming victory at halftime and then just refusing to play the second half.” –The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza

Remember — Not even the Trump campaign expects the election to be over tonight. The campaign sent out a fundraising email on Friday to “keep fighting after Election Day” asking for weekly recurring giving until Dec. 14—the day the slate of Electoral College electors meet and governors send a certification to Congress. In justifying this, a campaign spokesperson told The New York Times the race is expected to be close and “it is possible that multiple states will require recounts.

Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, the website that puts Trump’s chance of winning at 10%, tweeted that, “[T]his is not something a campaign says if it thinks it has much chance of winning legitimately. I think Trump can win legitimately! (A 10% chance, per our model.) I am not sure if the Trump campaign does, though.”


Trump may look to be ahead tonight in what is being described as a “red mirage” because more Republicans are expected to vote today with ballots that will be counted quickly, while more Democrats used early and mail-in ballots which can take longer to count.

This gives Trump the incentive to try and discount as many mail-in ballots as possible, and declare victory before they can be adequately counted.

Here’s what to keep in mind as results begin arriving tonight:

  • ARIZONA — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 11
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.4 million (924,000 Democrats, 914,000 Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt (counting begins 14 days early)
    • Expected results: Mostly tonight
  • FLORIDA — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip from 2012)
    • Electoral College votes: 29
    • Mail-in ballots received: 4.6 million (2.1 million Democrats, 1.4 million Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: 22 days early
    • Expected results: Tonight (but it is Florida)
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 16
    • Mail-in ballots received: 1.2 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt
    • Expected results: Majority by Nov. 4
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip from 2012)
    • Electoral College votes: 16
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.8 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: 1 day early (for large towns and cities)
    • Expected results: Nov. 6
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 15
    • Mail-in ballots received: 938,000 (425k Democrats, 191k)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Fifth Tuesday before election day
    • Expected results: Vast majority tonight
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip)
    • Electoral College votes: 20
    • Mail-in ballots received: 2.4 million (1.5 million Democrats, 555,000 Republicans)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Election day (some counties may begin day after)
    • Expected results: Vast majority by Nov. 6
  • TEXAS — 
    • 2016 winner: Trump
    • Electoral College votes: 38
    • Mail-in ballots received: 973,000 (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Upon receipt
    • Expected results: Majority tonight
    • 2016 winner: Trump (flip)
    • Electoral College votes: 10
    • Mail-in ballots received: 1.2 million (split unknown)
    • Mail-in ballot processing: Election day
    • Expected results: Late tonight or early Nov. 4

As The Count co-host Emily Galvin-Almanza said yesterday, tonight is “probably not going to be the decisive day you want it to be.”
“Yes we can dream about a decisive Biden lead in Florida, North Carolina, Texas those would be pretty decisive states. But that is the outside chance, that is not probably what’s going to happen.”

If, instead, it comes down to states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that don’t process mail-in ballots well before election day, “we’re in pretty big trouble,” The Count co-host Alana Sivin said.


  • How TV networks are preparing for tonight with more caution than ever before. Meanwhile the Associated Press will continue its practice of only declaring, but never projecting, a winner when there’s no chance for a trailing candidate to catch up.
  • Twitter will add labels today to candidates’ tweets that declare victory before two news outlets have also called the same race.
  • Trump’s “army” of poll watchers never really materialized, probably because the task is too boring.
  • Nonwhite voters’ mail-in ballots are being rejected at higher rates than white voters in 11 states, including Florida and Georgia.
  • Texas’ 127,000 drive thru ballots will not be thrown out after a federal judge rejected an appeal from Republicans.
  • Exit polls can be misleading in an ordinary election, and changes to include early voters in the polling won’t help.
  • Asking voters who their friends and family will vote for, as an indication of who a voter will really support, significantly cuts into Biden’s national lead in polls.