What to anticipate on election day


Just over a week before Election Day, over 60 million Americans have voted early. That dwarfs the total number of early votes of 47.2 million in 2016, and the number will continue to grow significantly this week.

"That is good news!" wrote Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who leads the US election project that tracks early national voting. “There have been many concerns about the ability of election officials to hold elections during a pandemic. Not only do people vote, but they vote for a longer period of time, which spreads the workload of the electoral officials. "

At a time when there is so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt about American elections (and many of them are unjustified), it is important to emphasize that "frankly, it is going well," as Benjamin Hovland, chairman of the Electoral Aid Commission, I said last week.

"We see an opportunity for political actors at home and abroad to opportunistically select projections, data or cases with which they can cause confusion and sow doubt."

Kate Starbird, Electoral Integrity Partnership

But what about the day itself? What should you be prepared for in the hours, days, and weeks after November 3rd?

"We're expecting a mess," says Kate Starbird, a Crisis Computing researcher at the University of Washington and a senior researcher with the Election Integrity Partnership.

“My plan for Election Day is to start the day very early with lots of coffee,” says Eddie Perez, an election expert at the Open Source Election Technology Institute, “and be prepared not to go to sleep for 24 hours or more. "

What will happen

November 3rd can start with long lines and will likely end with an unusually high level of uncertainty.

On Monday, Starbird released a report detailing exactly the kind of "uncertainty and misinformation" experts expect on Election Day this evening and in the future.

You're ready to fill social media with photos and videos of long lines, confusing ballot papers, or faulty voting machines – the kind of problems that come up every time America votes. But this time around, that information will likely be used to advance certain weird narratives at a moment when voters are waiting for final election results, an information vacuum that makes the country particularly vulnerable.

What we will know

Perhaps the most momentous moment of the day will take place between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time, shortly after many East Coast polls closed and some states reported information on millions of mail-in and primary votes, not to mention the standard election day election. That will begin to tell the story of the choice.

First of all, the exact mechanics of counting varies depending on the condition. When the polls are complete, the memory cards and USB sticks that come from both the computers used to count the mail-in votes and the devices that performed the early personal poll only take a few minutes to complete. to tabulate the early votes for weeks. Many election officials will review the results reports prior to posting numbers to ensure the numbers add up and to avoid confusion. Otherwise, they could add to the chaos at a particularly important moment.


Steven Gregory