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4 November 2020updated 28 Aug 2021 9:46pm

US election 2020: Inconclusive results point to days of uncertainty

Both presidential campaigns are trying to frame the narrative to their advantage. 

By Ido Vock

One of the most divisive election campaigns in modern US history, set against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans and upended the functioning of political campaigns, has ended with no clear winner likely to be declared on election night. The final results will likely only be known in a matter of days and may hinge on a handful of late-declaring states, according to election officials.

Both campaigns have declared the results will not be known until well after the early hours of 4 November. Vote counting in several crucial states will continue for some time, meaning that definitive results may not be known until Friday in some states. Officials in the crucial swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia have said their final results will not be announced for hours to come, setting up a brutal battle between the candidates to control the narrative and present themselves as the legitimate president as decisive results trickle in.

Turnout will hit historic highs, with possibly as many as two-thirds of eligible voters having cast their ballots, significantly higher than the 56 per cent who voted in 2016.

In a late-night address from Delaware, Joe Biden claimed his campaign was “on course to win this election”. Trump, almost simultaneously, tweeted that the election was being stolen from him. Both statements are likely to set the tone for the coming days.


The story of the night so far is that, as Emily writes, Trump is likely to win Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, states where he is ahead on provisional results by around 2 per cent. Biden’s prizes so far are somewhat more modest. The Democratic candidate won New Hampshire, a blue state the Republicans had been eyeing, as well as Arizona, which has not been won by a Democrat since 1996.

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Pennsylvania may not declare until Friday, which could set the scene for a battle in the courts, especially if the state swings what had been looking like a national win for Trump away from him. Republicans are already suing to try and temporarily block votes from those who corrected mail-in ballot mistakes, Emily adds.

[See also: Will the US election come down to four swing states?]

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Still, based on exit polls and early results, a key theme of the night appears to be Biden underperforming among Latino voters, as Ben writes. In Starr County, Texas, which was won by Hillary Clinton with a margin of 60 per cent and has the highest percentage of Hispanic residents of any county in the nation, Biden was just 5 points ahead with 98 per cent of votes counted. Texas as a whole appears to be leaning for Trump, a disappointment for Biden, who had been hoping to flip the traditionally red state.

In Florida, another swing state Biden had been hoping to win, Trump is ahead by around 3 per cent. This appears to be largely because of Biden’s relatively weak performance with Latinos, who in several states voted Trump by a greater margin than in 2016. This year, Latino voters split for Biden by just 8 points, 19 fewer than at the last election.

An Edison exit poll showed Biden losing ground among every demographic except white men.

[See also: Hispanics in Florida shift to Trump]

As for the balance of power in Congress, the Democrats appear likely to hold their majority in the House of Representatives, but control of the Senate may hinge on one or possibly two run-offs later this year in Georgia to elect the state’s two senators. In Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones lost his Senate seat to Tommy Tuberville and in Colorado, John Hickenlooper defeated Republican Cory Gardner.

As for the main contest of the night, it seems unlikely that a result, one way or the other, will be known in the coming hours. A bruising battle between the two candidates is certain, as both attempt to portray themselves as the legitimate president-elect of the United States.

[See also: The US election Swing States]