You will not only announce where the ballots came from, but also how those ballots were cast. This distinction is vital because in most states the mail-in voting will be Democratic while the in-person voting will be Republican. But nobody knows exactly how big the offset will be. As a result, it is extremely difficult to analyze the number of votes reported that do not distinguish between personal and mail-in ballots.
Since Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina will all make the distinction, they’re the only three states The Times is making versions of its polling pin this year. The needles indicate the percentage likelihood of a Trump or Biden victory in each state as it changes tonight based on the ballot papers counted.
There will be no national needle this year. “The limits of the data available are just too risky to act responsibly,” tweeted Nate Cohn of the Times.
Bottom line: if Biden is on the right track to lose Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, he is no longer a big favorite to win. That would suggest that the polls underestimated Trump’s support. In the simulations of FiveThirtyEight, Biden has about a 50 percent chance of winning if he loses all three southeastern swing states. He would then probably have to win at least Pennsylvania or Arizona.
The Senate. North Carolina will be important for a second reason: it is home to one of the Senate races most likely to determine Senate control. If Democrat Cal Cunningham defeats incumbent Republican Thom Tillis, it means Democrats are on track to hold at least 50 Senate seats in January.
A second big race in the Senate is taking place in Maine, where the polls close at 8:00 p.m. Maine’s electoral system means official scores may not be counted for several days. But if Democratic challenger Sara Gideon wins more than 47 percent of the vote in the first round, she’ll be in good shape to beat Susan Collins, the incumbent Republican, said Dan Shea of Colby College.
In Arizona and Colorado, where polls close at 9 p.m., prefer the Democratic challengers. Winning those four seats – and the vice presidency, which cuts ties with the Senate – will likely be enough to put the Democrats in control of the Senate. They also have a good shot up for grabs in South Carolina (where polls close at 7 p.m.), Iowa (10 p.m.), Montana (10 p.m.), and Georgia, where either or both races can run into the January runoff.