Most polls in Florida and Georgia closed at 7 p.m., and could soon offer a first glimpse of where the election is headed in two key battleground states — the first, a must-win for President Trump with 29 electoral votes, is characteristically neck-and-neck down to the wire.
Four other states, including Vermont, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia, with a total of 93 electoral votes when added to Florida and Georgia, were set to close all or some of their polls at 7 p.m.
In Florida, results will soon start posting from early votes in key counties. That includes Miami-Dade County, where Democrats have been fretting about their turnout. There will not be any statewide results until after voting in the Panhandle, part of which is in the Central time zone, is complete at 8 p.m.
Other key counties are Pinellas, in the Tampa Bay area; Seminole, near Orlando, and Duval, home to Jacksonville. Also keep an eye on St. Lucie, which went for former President Barack Obama twice and then swung to Mr. Trump in 2016. And for a look at Republican base turnout, there is Sumter County, home to The Villages retirement community.
The most competitive congressional race in the state is in the 26th District, which stretches from the western Miami suburbs to Key West. But there is also an open seat north of Tampa worth monitoring.
Georgia, a light-red state in 2016 that has become a 2020 tossup, is also the site of two hard-fought Senate contests: the incumbent Republican senator, David Perdue, is fending off a stout challenge from Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to fill a vacant seat, is facing challenges from Representative Doug Collins, a Republican, and the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, a Democrat.
Both races could result in runoffs next year if the winner does not reach the 50 percent threshold.
Both Florida and Georgia are expected to release their results relatively quickly. Still, a state judge ordered polls in Spalding County, Ga., south of Atlanta, to remain open until 9 p.m. after technical problems slowed balloting earlier in the day.
In a call with reporters late Tuesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign described Florida as a “coin flip,” a description that has fit the state for decades. But Georgia, with its rapidly expanding suburbs, is considered a new test of Mr. Biden’s claim he can expand Hillary Clinton’s 2016 map.
Both candidates and their surrogates blanketed the state during the closing two weeks of the campaign, with trips there from Mr. Biden, Mr. Obama and Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate. Mr. Trump staged a big rally in Rome, Ga., over the weekend.
“We win Georgia, we win everything,” Biden said at a drive-in rally in Atlanta last week.
The first polls have closed in Indiana and Kentucky — though polls in the western parts of those states will be open for another hour — and results should start trickling in soon. They will be incomplete and potentially very unrepresentative of the final numbers, though, so caution and patience are both warranted.
But one thing is already clear: The turnout in this election will be historic.
We won’t know the final turnout numbers for some time, but they are on track to be enormous, as evidenced by the fact that at least six states have already surpassed their 2016 vote totals with several hours left to go in many places.
According to the United States Election Project, 2020 votes have already exceeded 2016 votes in Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Washington State.
By the end of the night, the same could easily be true in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah, all of which had reported more than 90 percent of their 2016 totals by earlier today.
Michael P. McDonald, a University of Florida professor who compiles data from across the nation, said that the country appeared to be on track for roughly 160 million total votes cast. That would mean a turnout rate of about 67 percent of the eligible voting population — higher than the United States has seen in more than a century.
Around the nation, Black voters were on pace to greatly surpass their turnout from 2016, according to voter data analyzed and released Tuesday by the Collective PAC, which is dedicated to electing Black lawmakers.
Quentin James, the founder of the PAC, said more than 616,000 Black people had already cast ballots in Texas — more than the 582,000 who voted in 2016 — and that the turnout of Black voters in Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona was on pace to easily overtake 2016 levels.
In Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, Democratic officials said they felt particularly bullish about turnout in Philadelphia. With just under 400,000 mail ballots cast and lines at hundreds of polling places around the city starting at 6:30 a.m., one Democratic official said he thought the turnout could surge past levels seen in 2008 for former President Barack Obama.
On the other side, Bill Bretz, chairman of the Republican Party in Westmoreland County, Pa., which includes eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, said turnout had been “exceptionally high” there.
We don’t have enough information yet to say whether more Democrats or more Republicans voted in most states. We do know that Democrats had a strong advantage in early voting, and that Republicans were expected to have an advantage in Election Day voting — but there is much less Election Day voting this year than in past years.
“There’s only so much left in the Election Day vote,” said Michael P. McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida. “That means that Trump’s got to make up ground with a smaller potential pool.”
the presidential race
There are two big questions tonight as this long campaign comes to an end. The first, obviously, is whether President Trump survives a challenge from Joseph R. Biden Jr. and wins a second term in the White House.
The second question is, when are we going to know the answer to the first question?
Some early (though not surprising) developments: Mr. Trump has won Indiana and West Virginia, and Mr. Biden has won Virginia and Vermont.
With that out of the way, here are a few things to think about.
First, who wins Florida and North Carolina? Those two states are expected to count votes quickly (polls in Florida began closing at 7 p.m.) If Mr. Biden wins Florida in particular, it is difficult to see how Mr. Trump can keep the White House. Not impossible for the president, but much harder.
If Mr. Trump wins Florida, that signals a long week. That means the race is likely to turn on the three Northern industrial states that Mr. Trump won from Democrats in 2016. Polls show Mr. Biden with a decent lead in two of them — Wisconsin and Michigan — but Pennsylvania seems closer. The count of the early vote in Pennsylvania doesn’t even begin until the morning after Election Day, and the Trump campaign has already begun what could well be a month of court battles trying to disqualify votes cast.
This Florida calculus changes a bit if Mr. Biden somehow loses Florida but wins North Carolina and Georgia. Those two states account for 31 Electoral College votes, or two more than Florida. We will probably see North Carolina results early; Georgia might take longer.
Texas is a bit of a wild card here. No Democrat has won the state since Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald R. Ford there in 1976 — Mr. Carter, a Southerner, running after Watergate.
But Democrats and Republicans have long seen signs that Texas is drifting toward the Democratic column. And there are indications this year that this process has accelerated, because of the growth of the Latino vote and a flood of new residents, including many Democrats.
Polls (there were not many but some) showed the race being very competitive. Many Democrats still see Texas as a bit of a long shot for Mr. Biden, but a Democratic victory in a state with 38 Electoral College votes could be a game changer, not only for this presidential race but for the nation’s future politics.
In a normal election — and this is of course is not a normal election — an outcome often becomes clear when one of the two candidates calls the other to concede. It’s difficult to predict what the president might do, but it seems unlikely that he would make a call like that even if he lost Florida and North Carolina, and even when many people are saying he has lost, preferring to wait for the Midwest contests to be resolved. Again, that is just a guess; predicting what Mr. Trump might do is never a safe road to drive down.
The other side of that is that if Mr. Trump sweeps those Southern states and appears on the road to hold on to all of the states he won against Hillary Clinton in 2016, he would need to pick off just one of the three Northern battleground states to win re-election.
At that point, Mr. Biden could well find himself under pressure to call Mr. Trump and concede. Given the troubled electoral history in the country, starting when Al Gore prematurely conceded to George W. Bush in 2000, it seems likely that Mr. Biden will face huge pressure from Democrats to wait.
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE
With the ability of the next president to pursue his agenda resting on control of the Senate, Republicans are on the defense in an increasingly tight battle, trying to hold off a wave of well-funded Democratic challengers across the map, including in reliably conservative states.
Republicans currently hold the Senate majority by a margin of 53 to 47. A net gain of three seats would put Democrats in control should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. win the presidency. If President Trump wins re-election, positioning Vice President Mike Pence to cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate, Democrats would need to win four seats in order to win a majority.
Democrats believe they are already on track to win Arizona and Colorado and are on the hunt for a half-dozen others starting with North Carolina, Maine, and Iowa. And with both of the state’s Republican senators at risk, Georgia is looming as a pick up opportunity. Democratic strategists concede that Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, will probably lose his seat, and are keeping a close eye on Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, who is facing a serious challenge.
Vulnerable Republican incumbents fighting for their political lives have argued that maintaining control of the Senate would create a firewall between a potential Democratic-controlled House and White House. Such a configuration would almost certainly doom any expansive overhauls envisioned by Mr. Biden, including a sprawling economic stimulus package.
If Democrats take back the Senate under Mr. Biden, they will face an immediate decision of whether to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which allows the minority party to block legislation by setting a 60-vote threshold for action. Democratic activists — and some senators — have expressed openness to the idea, arguing that they cannot allow Republicans to block Mr. Biden’s agenda as they did President Barack Obama’s.
CONTROL OF THE HOUSE
Bolstered by eroding support for President Trump in critical battlegrounds, House Democrats are poised to expand their majority, using a stunning cash-on-hand advantage and wave of liberal enthusiasm to push into districts Republicans have not lost in decades.
Citing a dismal national environment and a revolt of affluent, suburban voters in traditional conservative strongholds thronging the country from the Midwest to Texas, Republican strategists privately predict losing anywhere from a handful of seats to 20, and have focused their efforts on offsetting their losses in largely rural, white working-class districts.
Antipathy toward Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic and his inflammatory brand of politics has dragged down congressional Republicans across the nation, opening up once unfathomable inroads for Democrats in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Omaha, St. Louis and Phoenix. In a sign of their prospects, Democrats are storming once ruby-red parts of Texas, positioning themselves in striking distance of picking up as many as five seats on the outskirts of Houston and Dallas.
Republicans, looking to limit the reach of a potential Democratic sweep, are targeting several incumbents locked in tight races in rural areas of central New York, New Mexico, and Minnesota, and traditionally conservative seats in Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina that Democrats captured in 2018.
But the terrain all but ensures there will be at least one foothold of Democratic power in Washington, and solidifies Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s grip on her gavel, positioning her to either remain a check on a Trump presidency or as a key ally to a Biden administration.
After an extraordinary campaign in which the only constant, it seemed, was chaos, Election Day was … almost normal.
It wasn’t really normal, of course, as evidenced by the masks and the six-foot divides and the fact that more than 100 million people had cast ballots before the day even started. But the voting machines worked, for the most part. The lines were at times long, but they moved quickly, for the most part. And in 2020, “OK for the most part” is about the best one can hope for.
As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, “we have not seen major, systemic problems or attempts to obstruct voting for voters, and the problems that we have seen have been for the most part isolated and sporadic,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told reporters.
There were scattered problems: Some machines in Philadelphia malfunctioned early in the day, forcing affected voters to cast provisional ballots. Voting hours were extended for up to 45 minutes in four precincts in North Carolina that experienced delays. According to Ms. Clarke, some voters in York County, Pa., who could not read their ballots were denied assistance that they were legally entitled to.
Some voters also reported intimidation or disinformation, including robocalls in Michigan that falsely told voters to avoid long lines by waiting to vote until Wednesday and the appearance of an armed man in a Trump hat outside a polling site in North Carolina. (He was ultimately arrested.) And Republicans are, as expected, trying to challenge ballots in some states — particularly Pennsylvania, where they are trying to stop election officials from contacting voters whose mail ballots were rejected on technicalities to offer them provisional ballots.
But after months of anxiety about sweeping disenfranchisement, the nightmare scenarios appeared not to come to pass. And between mail-in ballots, early votes and Election Day votes, turnout was on track to be historically high.
A Federal District Court judge on Tuesday ordered an immediate sweep of 12 postal districts searching for undelivered ballots after the Postal Service said in court that some 300,000 ballots it had received had not been scanned for delivery.
The dramatic Election Day order came as record numbers of Americans have voted by mail this year, as many voters were anxious to avoid crowds at the polls during the pandemic — and at the end of a campaign season in which fears that recent Postal Service changes had caused extensive mail delays that could imperil ballots.
The judge, Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia, ordered the sweep to begin before 3 p.m. to “ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery.” He said he was particularly concerned about ballot delivery in districts where there has been slow processing of ballots for days, including Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Detroit.
He ordered the Postal Service to provide him with an update on the sweep by 4:30 p.m. certifying that “sweeps were conducted and that no ballots were left behind.”
Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P. and a plaintiff in the suit, said he believed the Postal Service would complete the sweeps before Election Day ended rather than risk being held in contempt of court.
“It was a victory for individual voters,” Mr. Johnson said of the order. “There will have to be remediation if they’re unable to address the order. I’m sure the Postal Service does not want to be held in contempt of the judge’s order.”
Roughly 300,000 ballots that the U.S. Postal Service says it processed show no scan confirming their delivery to ballot-counting sites, according to data filed today in federal court in Washington, D.C., leaving voter-rights advocates concerned as low on-time delivery scores for mail ballots continue to plague some key swing districts.
Postal officials say just because a ballot never received a final scan before going out for delivery doesn’t mean, necessarily, that it wasn’t delivered. A machine scanning ballots for final processing can sometimes miss ballots that are stuck together or whose bar codes are smudged. And hand-sorted ballots typically do not receive a final scan before delivery.
The Postal Service has also authorized expedited delivery of ballots that forego the normal process, but voting-rights advocates are concerned that, without a scan verifying the ballots went out for delivery, some could be sitting uncounted at various postal facilities around the country.
Data the Postal Service filed on Election Day showed continued low on-time processing scores for ballots delivered Monday in several battleground postal districts, including 69 percent in Central Pennsylvania, 79 percent in Philadelphia, 78 percent in Detroit, 61 percent in Atlanta and 74 percent in South Florida.
All states require that mail ballots be postmarked by Election Day in order to count, but some allow a grace period for the ballots to arrive in the hands of elections officials. Pennsylvania, for instance, has a three-day window to receive ballots as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, but that is the subject of litigation.
The ballots in question should have been postmarked upon entering a postal facility, but the sweep will help determine whether any fell through the cracks, according to Shankar Duraiswamy, the lead attorney for the nonprofit coalition Vote Forward, which is suing the Postal Service to try to ensure all ballots are delivered.
He asked for an order from Judge Sullivan requiring the Postal Service to verify by 3 p.m. that an inspector has visited facilities at all “hot spot” jurisdictions to “ensure that no ballots remain in the facility and that all ballots that were there earlier today are out for delivery this afternoon.”
Mr. Duraiswamy said the order focuses on states that don’t have a statutory grace period for receiving ballots after Election Day. “No voter should be disenfranchised for something that is outside of his or her control,” he said. “These are districts we’ve identified as chronically underperforming.”
Judge Sullivan ordered the Postal Service on Friday to undertake “extraordinary measures” to deliver the ballots in 22 districts where on-time delivery of ballots dipped below a rate of 90 percent for two days last week.
The Postal Service reported it had discovered 180,000 pieces of delayed mail in Miami-Dade County in Florida, including more than 40 ballots, after a video taken inside a post office in disarray in the city of Homestead went viral of Friday. However, it said all but one of those ballots had now been delivered to elections officials.
American intelligence officials are watching for stepped-up foreign election interference if the results of the presidential race take days to emerge, including whether adversarial countries try to foment violence inside the United States, the head of the National Security Agency said on Tuesday.
Foreign powers considering whether to try to influence the outcome of the race will change their calculations if “there is a clearly defined winner” by Wednesday, the official, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, told reporters. But vote-counting that takes days or weeks to determine a winner could likely prompt more foreign interference efforts, he said.
“There is a period of time where we are watching this carefully to see if our adversaries are going to try to take advantage if there is a close vote,” he said.
In the past several days and weeks, foreign countries interfered less than they had leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, General Nakasone also said. But, he added, more nations overall were trying to interfere than in past elections.
Foreign powers including Russia, Iran or China could try to sow doubt about the integrity of the vote count or security of the election through influence operations or hacking attempts, current and former officials have said.
American officials retaliated in recent days against an operation last month by Iranian hackers who sent spoofed emails to voters in Florida and other states, according to two officials briefed on the response. The Washington Post earlier reported the operation.
American officials had learned of the playbook Iran had mapped out to conduct further interference efforts, but the retaliatory operation appeared to succeed, hampering the Iranian group’s ability to conduct further such operations ahead of Election Day, the officials said. General Nakasone declined to discuss specific operations.
He did raise the prospect that foreign powers could try to stoke violence with extreme domestic groups if the results are close and tensions are high. Russia and other foreign governments have repeatedly tried to amplify unrest in the United States, including after far-right rallies and counterprotests in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, that killed a woman and injured dozens, intelligence officials have said.
The night the nation has been waiting for — and in some quarters dreading — is finally here.
Polls will begin closing at 6 p.m. Eastern in parts of Kentucky and Indiana, and the first results will begin rolling in soon after that. Both states are securely in the Trump column.
After that, there are a few states that may determine early on whether this election might be resolved Tuesday night — or whether we are in for a long week or (yikes) month.
If Mr. Biden wins Georgia, Florida or North Carolina, Mr. Trump has an even slimmer path to victory.
Polls begin closing in Florida at 7 p.m. Eastern. Florida officials have already processed the state’s record-breaking early vote, which has been almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Watch for those votes to be announced shortly after 8 p.m.
Unless the margin is razor thin, there is a good chance that the state will be called before bedtime on the East Coast.
Polls in Georgia also close at 7 p.m. Final results could be known within a few hours as well.
North Carolina’s polls close at 7:30 p.m. Most of the early vote there has already been counted, so this is another state that is likely to be called Tuesday, unless it is very close. The state’s Board of Elections said that the reporting of results will be delayed by 45 minutes, till 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, because of delayed openings at four polling sites.
If Mr. Biden does not win any of those three states (or Texas, where most of the state’s polls close at 8 p.m.), that will ratchet up the importance of the so-called blue wall of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
It all may come down to Pennsylvania. Polls there close at 8 p.m., but Pennsylvania won’t begin counting its early votes until Wednesday morning. The in-person voting is expected to be overwhelmingly Republican, so Mr. Trump may jump out to an early-night lead.
Don’t get misled; the early voting has been overwhelmingly Democratic. Polling shows Mr. Biden with a narrow lead in Pennsylvania, though Mr. Trump’s poll-defying victory there in 2016 — and the effort by his campaign this time to turn out first-time voters who Republicans say have been overlooked by pollsters — has made this state one of the big mysteries of the night. It could take days to finish counting Pennsylvania’s votes.
Polls in Wisconsin close at 9 p.m. Eastern, but the state’s municipal clerks did not start counting early votes until the polls open the morning of Election Day; a tight race might mean it will take a day or more before a winner is declared.
The final poll closing in Michigan is 9 p.m. as well, though most of the state’s polls will be closed at 8 p.m. Early voting has been heavy here as well, and counting those votes didn’t begin until Monday. This is another one that could take awhile.
Although many winners may quickly be evident on election night, the increase in mail voting because of the pandemic is expected to push back the release of full results in many key states.
The New York Times asked officials in every state and the District of Columbia about their reporting processes and what share of votes they expect to be counted by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 4. There is a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding results in any election, but here’s what they said to expect:
Many states will not have complete results tonight.
Even once the early and in-person ballots are counted, a significant number of votes could still be outstanding. Only nine states expect to have at least 98 percent of unofficial results reported by noon the day after the election. Officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two key battleground states, have said full official counts could take several days.
The increase in mail voting could also lead to more provisional votes cast, increasing the number of ballots counted later.
Results are never official until final certification, which occurs in each state in the weeks following the election.
The results at the beginning and at the end of the night will be skewed in some places.
The order in which different types of votes are reported could also make one party look stronger at various points in the night. Democrats are more likely to vote by mail this year, so in states where those will be the first type of ballots released, like Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, initial results could skew in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr. Places that report in-person Election Day votes first, like most parts of Virginia, will probably look better for President Trump.
But the initial skew in a state’s results may last only a short while, and it will be influenced by which counties or precincts in the state are the fastest to report.
After election night, there could also be misleadingly positive results for Mr. Trump in certain states, with mail ballots trickling in over the following days favoring Mr. Biden.