Impatience and Election Night

Accuracy takes time.

This is not encouraging, since it sets up some potentially unrealistic expectations. Via Axios: Axios-Ipsos poll: Most expect quick election results.

I have long been an advocate of patience in regard to election results (well before the current concern about potential delays counting mail-in ballot). It is simply not always possible to have the final tallies in time for us all to go to bed knowing the outcomes and democratic outcomes require patience over instant gratification.

This is a potential problem this year, as it is fully expected that Trump will try to sow doubt about states where it looks like he is winning on election night only to lose those electoral votes once all the mail-in ballots are tallied.

To be honest, if the gap between Trump and Biden continues to be at around 8%, there is a decent chance that we will have results sooner rather than later (even election night). If things narrow, it could take longer, especially if we have to wait on states like (heaven forbid!) Florida.

Still, between the clear difficulties presented by voting during a pandemic, not to mention the fact that there will be a surge of voting-by-mail, the odds definitive results taking a few days, if not a week or more, are decent, if not high.

The worst case scenario is, of course, weeks and weeks due to lawsuits. I think this scenario is only likely if the race tightens considerably.

Regardless, we all need to be patient and the poll noted above indicates that a lot of people haven’t absorbed that message.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Part of the 36% who believe the results will be final on election night might be members of the Trump fan club, who appear convinced that he will win in a landslide.

    6
  2. Kathy says:

    Since we talk much here about government reforms, a good idea, IMO, and this goes for just about all countries, is to do away with an election day.

    Instead there should be an election period, say of one week, during which voters can turn up at the polls and vote. Between early voting, absentee ballots, and states that vote mostly by mail, setting one day aside for the election is already kind of an anachronism.

    This may be too much for smaller, local races, like in small “cities,” (or the whole state of Colima), so make it three days in such cases.

    3
  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    @CSK: They may believe that, or they may just be posturing in hopes that it will demoralize the opposition. I’m guessing it’s the latter. In contrast, Democrats often publicly express doubts and worry. It’s mostly a habit, not much of a predictive variable.

    1
  4. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    They could believe it, it could be posturing…or they might be trying to talk themselves into believing it. This is pretty much the same crew who thought Sarah Palin would be inaugurated in January 2013.

    Or maybe it’s a magic formula: Say Trump will win in a landslide often enough, and he will.

    4
  5. Jen says:

    @CSK:

    the same crew who thought Sarah Palin would be inaugurated in January 2013.

    I must have missed this conspiracy…what, pray tell, would have happened for that to occur? Romney and Ryan stepping down and…?? I’m legit confused.

    2
  6. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    Oh, it was a group of real sad sacks who called themselves Conservatives4Palin. They had a website by that name that was dedicated to her worship. Anyway, this crew decided back in the summer of 2011, on the basis of a few very vague but teasing comments that Palin made, that she would run for the presidency in 2012, win every primary, and beat Obama in a landslide. They got so carried away with this fever dream that they actually started making hotel reservations in D.C. for the gala inauguration.

    They were even more delusional, if that’s possible, than Cult45. I do think, though, that many of the Palinistas became even more powerfully obsessed with Trump than they were with Palin.

    5
  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    By the end of the day on 11/4, all the solid red and blue states will have announced victors pending certification. By the end of the week all states will be reporting victors. The problem that will arise is with states where the difference is within or close to vote count that will generate automatic recounts. That will trigger all sorts of attempts to invalidate specific ballots.

    If Biden gets to 270 and is +5 or greater in the states he wins, there will be know doubt who will be sworn in on 1/20/21

    2
  8. Joe says:

    @Kathy: My concern with an election period is keeping the trends out of the public until the period is closed for the same reason that most networks won’t project state winners until all the polling stations in the continental US are closed. I think there would be a lot of hype trying to discourage/encourage voting toward the end of the period based on any known trends.

    My big concern about mail-in ballots is my understanding that in some states (mine included) county clerks are not allowed to start counting mail in ballots until at least election day if not having to wait until polls close. Even if the clerk sees an avalanche of mail in ballots in the waiting area, s/he can’t do anything to address them until the last minute.

    3
  9. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    That’s a good point.

    We come back to Dr. Taylor’s counsel of patience. Why do we have to have the election and the results in one day? I propose after the voting period there needs to be a counting period. Say the voting period ends on Tuesday, the counting period can take up the next three days, with the results announced throughout Friday. Or take up the rest of the week and announce the results on Monday.

    I know everyone wants results right now. In fact, the most annoying part of elections, and major sporting events, is the amount of time dedicated to predicting the winner beforehand. It’s ok in small doses, but at some point it gets tiresome..

    It’s not exactly a coin flip, but given only two outcomes, a lot of people are going to predict the winner even if they do so at random. A good forecast deals in probabilities.

    1
  10. Jen says:

    @CSK: Yikes. I think this falls under “if I didn’t want to hear the answer, I shouldn’t have asked the question.” That’s really sad almost beyond words…

    1
  11. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    That was always my reaction: that it was terribly sad that these people had invested so much hope in someone who didn’t give a rap about them. One guy there once wrote that he wanted to move his family to Wasilla, on the grounds that they’d be safer in the event of the coming apocalypse the nearer they were to Sarah. He appeared to be serious. The others tried gently to discourage him; even they weren’t quite that far gone. Imagine thinking that Palin could (or would) protect you in the event of a global holocaust. Well, I see similar sentiments expressed by the Trump devotees.

    These people are alleged adults. Why do they need a savior and a protector so badly?

    7
  12. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    One guy there once wrote that he wanted to move his family to Wasilla, on the grounds that they’d be safer in the event of the coming apocalypse the nearer they were to Sarah.

    Have you ever come across the quote attributed to Emerson M. Pugh “If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t”?

    We may be going about it all wrong, as some brains apparently are so simple we should be able to understand them.

    Then we build on from there.

    2
  13. Michael Cain says:

    It is simply not always possible to have the final tallies in time for us all to go to bed knowing the outcomes and democratic outcomes require patience over instant gratification.

    It is impossible to have the final tallies on election night. Arizona allows ballots postmarked by election day until Friday to arrive. My state allows ten days to cure flaws and make a provisional ballot cast on election day count. What we are used to having is enough preliminary data that the network statisticians are willing to make a prediction. Tradition (or is it statute?) keeps them from making calls for a state until that state’s polls are closed. I’m quite sure that the statisticians would be entirely happy to say the week before election day, “With zero percent of the results reported, Fox News calls Washington, DC for Joe Biden.” This year it is, as you say, quite possible that there won’t be enough preliminary data to make the statisticians happy on election night.

    As an example of how the statistics are trusted, consider California. Ballots are counted in the order received. Last-minute ballots break very heavily, and reliably, Democratic. So much so that in 2018, the statisticians called one US House race for the Democrat while the Republican was leading in the reported data by several thousand votes. Not long after that the Republican conceded also while he was still ahead.

    3
  14. Paine says:

    I fully expect the GOP to have teams of lawyers in various states around the country prepared to file lawsuits shutting down the vote count as of 12:01 am, 11/4 in any state where Trump looks to be ahead. They know what’s at stake and won’t let the people choose otherwise.

    4
  15. Moosebreath says:

    A very powerful essay on the stakes for this election. A snippet:

    “We survivors of authoritarianism have a terrible, terrible foreboding, because we are experiencing something we should never do: deja vu. Our parents fled from collapsing societies to America. And here, now, in a grim and eerie repeat of history, we see the scenes of our childhoods played out all over again. Only now, in the land that we came to. We see the stories our parents recounted to us happening before our eyes, only this time, in the place they brought us to, to escape from all those horrors, abuses, and depredations.

    We survivors are experiencing this terrible feeling of deja vu right now as a group, as a class. We talk about it, how eerie and grim this sense of deja vu is. It’s happening all over again! Do you remember this part of your childhood? When the armed men roamed the streets? When the secret police disappeared opponents? When the fascist masses united — and that was enough to destroy democracy for good? We talk about it, believe me — but you don’t hear it because we have no real voice. America’s pundits are named Chris and Jake and Tucker. They are not named Eduardo and Ravi and Xiao and Umair. But Chris and Jake and Tucker can’t help you now. They don’t know what the hell they’re dealing with. They literally have no idea because they have no experience whatsoever.”

    5
  16. Jen says:

    @Paine: Those teams of lawyers are already out, trying to stop state-level decisions to allow for “no-excuse” absentee voting.

    Trump and the RNC are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit challenging New Hampshire’s ability to change absentee voting in light of the pandemic.

    So yes, absolutely they are going to challenge just about everything. State’s rights are for their issues only, I guess.

    5
  17. @Michael Cain:

    It is impossible to have the final tallies on election night.

    You are correct and I was too vague in my statement. I meant we cannot always know the basic results. Final tallies are never available on election night in any state.

    1
  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: In my take on this, the biggest problem is that the precedent is that when a candidate is ahead in the vote on election night, is close to 270 in EV, and it doesn’t seem likely that things will change, the opposing candidate usually concedes the race graciously. In 2000, with the drama in Florida, it is most assuredly true that such a concession would not be forthcoming because not all of the conditions for concession could be met without a resolution in Florida, so there you go.

    Pardon my digression, but in the current situation we are faced with a candidate, and in fact, a whole party block, that will not graciously do anything let alone concede and have hinted at a willingness to look for opportunity to fight the result even if (perhaps especially if) the opposing candidate is leading in the popular vote, is close to 270 (and maybe even past 270 if circumstances are ripe), and it doesn’t look like anything will change in the remaining ballot tally.

    In other words, our system may be broken beyond repair, or at least quick repair. Additionally, I fully expect Mitch and the others to resume the whole “let’s make the nCLANNNNGGGGGG a one-term office holder” thing with the case this time being that the previous ^!&&*#’s assistant is the same thing as the first. Fun times ahead. 🙁

    3
  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK:

    One guy there once wrote that he wanted to move his family to Wasilla, on the grounds that they’d be safer in the event of the coming apocalypse the nearer they were to Sarah. He appeared to be serious.

    I am clearly NOT a nice person because that picture in my mind triggered not sorrow and empathy over how sad, pathetic, and fearful such a person must be, but uproarious laughter at what a pin head he was instead.

    I hope churches in my area are able to start opening soon. I apparently need something that going to church on facebook doesn’t provide in the way of improving my ability to love my neighbor as myself.

    3
  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: Sadly Mr. Haque, I must disagree with you on one point. Chris and Jake and Tucker not only know what we’re dealing with, they’re counting on it being what it appears.

    3
  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Paine:

    I fully expect the GOP to have teams of lawyers in various states around the country prepared to file lawsuits shutting down the vote count as of 12:01 am, 11/4 in any state where Trump looks to be ahead.

    I don’t recall where, but I saw a story weeks ago that the GOPs have hundreds of election lawyers on standby.

    1
  22. Michael Cain says:

    @Jen:

    Those teams of lawyers are already out, trying to stop state-level decisions to allow for “no-excuse” absentee voting.

    Indeed. And there is, in some states, where (for example) the requirements to use an absentee ballot are spelled out in statute, a question as to whether the executive branch can disregard the statute under the argument of “emergency powers.” As one point for discussion, the Michigan Sec of State sent out a notice to all registered voters that reminded them they could request a no-excuse mail ballot. There is no Michigan statute forbidding such, nor any statute that explicitly allows it. Whether it was legal, and whether it can repeated for the general election, is a reasonable legal question.

    OTOH, Nevada had a special session of the legislature that changed the law for the 2020 general election: all registered voters are to receive a ballot, the assorted dates for when ballots could be mailed were changed, drop boxes for ballot return were allowed, and county recorders got extra funding to implement all of this. Trump has howled about Nevada, but so far as I know, the campaign and party lawyers are not wasting their time and money filing cases claiming that the legislature can’t change the election laws (so long as they stay within the VRA).

    1
  23. Monala says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Can you clarify? I assume we’re talking about Chris Wallace, Jake Tapper, and Tucker Carlson. “They’re counting on it being what it appears” suggests that they are welcoming the coming of fascism to America. While that’s likely true for Carlson, why would that be the case for the other two?

    1
  24. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Joe:

    My big concern about mail-in ballots is my understanding that in some states (mine included) county clerks are not allowed to start counting mail in ballots until at least election day if not having to wait until polls close.

    Even worse, it seems that in some states the clerks (by state statute) aren’t even able to begin to check the voter’s credentials (on the “security” or “authentication” envelope) until election day. Until that time, the envelopes that the mailman sees/handles, which might contain a voter authentication envelope, which might contain an actual ballot just sit in boxes until election day.

    Unless NY has changed it statutes since July, that is the way mail/absentee ballots are handled. Leave all the labor pile up until the last day, then do all the pre-count processing (opening envelopes, checking credentials, opening the security envelope, extracting the ballot) in a mad dash.

    1
  25. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Michael Cain:

    consider California. Ballots are counted in the order received.

    As contrasted with Ohio (from the Ohio Secretary of State website)

    absentee ballots are the first votes counted on Election Night

    1
  26. flat earth luddite says:

    @Monala:
    I suspect they appear to support the status quo (pro-Trump, AFAICS) because it has given them wealth and perceived power. I suspect this is of true of GOP leadership and other cronies/handlers of Fearless Leader.

    2
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Monala: I’ve arrived at a point in my life where I’m no longer willing to give hangers on the benefit of the doubt. You lies down with dogs, you gets up with fleas. They work for an infotainment company, they’re infotainers. Chris and Jake are there to grant credibility to Tucker, Laura, and whatever other lying sacks are working there by being the token “real journalists.” If Chris and Jake want to be real journalists, they can stop being whore adjacent and go to work in real journalism.

    1
  28. Michael Cain says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Unless NY has changed it statutes since July, that is the way mail/absentee ballots are handled. Leave all the labor pile up until the last day, then do all the pre-count processing (opening envelopes, checking credentials, opening the security envelope, extracting the ballot) in a mad dash.

    It was originally fraud control.

    If you look at the databases of fraud cases, the most common ones are stealing the elections for county recorder or county sheriff in rural counties and the incumbent county recorder is the one committing the fraud (substitute your state’s equivalent offices). If it’s known that absentee ballots are running heavily against the recorder, the recorder starts preparing to produce fake absentee ballots. Knowing who has already returned their ballots is useful information.

    The people who claim that mail ballots enable fraud have a limited point. Absentee ballots have historically been a tool for election fraud, although in known stolen elections the fraud was committed by election officials, not by individual voters. Contemporary vote-by-mail systems are designed to make such wholesale fraud much, much harder.

    1
  29. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Well, we know that Trump is impatient and wants what he wants RIGHT NOW. Prolonging the agony would be appropriate punishment, although I definitely don’t want to see a replay of 2000.

    1