The Morning Jolt


The Wait Continues

A poll worker gestures while processing absentee ballots at the Milwaukee Central Count the night of Election Day in Milwaukee, Wisc., November 3, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

On the menu today: the state of play in the six states not yet called in the 2020 presidential election: Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Alaska.

Wait, Alaska? What, are they delivering the absentee ballots by dog sled?

What We Know So Far

As of this hour, Joe Biden has won states that have given him 253 electoral votes. If you’re Fox News and you have projected Biden the winner in Arizona, he is at 264 electoral votes. President Trump has won states that have given him 214 electoral votes.

Six states remain uncalled. Alaska is one of them, and everyone expects Trump to win handily.

In North Carolina, Trump is ahead by about 1.5 percent, or 76,701 votes. In the Senate race, Republican incumbent Thom Tillis leads by about 1.8 percent, or 96,689 votes. (Remember all that talk about Tillis being a weak candidate? He won fewer votes than the president so far, but leads by a higher percentage!)

The N.C. State Board of Elections said that “as of Wednesday afternoon, the universe of absentee by-mail ballots that could still be counted is approximately 116,000. . . . The number of absentee ballots ultimately counted will be fewer than 117,000 because some voters will not return their ballots and others voted in person on Election Day.”

If every absentee by-mail ballot is returned, Biden would need to win those ballots by something along the lines of an 83 percent to 17 percent split to overcome Trump’s lead. In the Senate race, Cal Cunningham would need to win those ballots by about a 90 percent to 10 percent split to overcome Tillis’s lead. If fewer ballots are returned, those Democrats would need to win by an even wider margin. In other words, Trump and Tillis have won North Carolina, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes official.

In Nevada — the state that Jon Ralston keeps reminding us matters — Joe Biden leads by six-tenths of a percentage point, or 7,647 votes, with an estimated 86 percent of the vote counted. We should get more returns out of the Sagebrush State today:

Election officials in Nevada’s Clark and Washoe counties, the state’s two largest, said this afternoon neither county would have new election results to report until Thursday morning. . . .

There is no threshold required to request a recount in Nevada. No recount requests are expected until the Nevada secretary of state finishes counting mail ballots received on Election Day and those that arrive over the next week, in addition to provisional ballots.

In Georgia this morning, with 96 percent of the estimated vote in, Trump leads by 18,540 votes, or four-tenths of a percentage point. That Trump lead may disappear in the final batches of votes:

Georgia’s secretary of state said that as of 10:15 p.m., there were about 90,735 ballots left to be counted in the state, including from counties that typically lean Democratic. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said counting the state’s ballots will most likely continue Thursday morning.

Raffensperger is a Republican, and a former state legislator. His office investigated and found 1,000 cases of double voting earlier this year. He is no amateur, and his state is taking extensive precautions:

“Officials in numerous counties are continuing to count ballots, with strong security protocols in place to protect the integrity of our election,” Raffensperger said late Wednesday in a statement. “We have long anticipated — and said publicly — that counting would most likely take place into Wednesday night and perhaps Thursday morning. We’re on pace to accomplish that responsibly, ensuring that the voice of every eligible voter is heard. It’s important to act quickly, but it’s more important to get it right.”

Raffensperger said these security measures are in place to secure the vote and increase public confidence in the electoral process:

  • Absentee drop boxes were locked at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, preventing illegal voting or potential fraud.
  • Surveillance cameras monitored drop boxes at all times.
  • A state monitor is in the room with Fulton County for all counts and the public is welcome to observe any county as an added layer of transparency.
  • A pre-certification audit will provide additional confidence that the votes were accurately counted.

“We’re well aware that with a close presidential election and the possibility of runoffs in some elections that the eyes of the state and the nation are upon Georgia at this time,” Raffensperger said. “We’re as anxious as anyone to see the final results and to start work on certification and planning for our runoff elections. As the work goes on, I want to assure Georgia voters that every legal vote was cast and accurately counted.”

If Biden ends up overtaking Trump’s lead, you’re going to see some frustrated Republicans insisting the state was stolen. Ask yourself if the GOP secretary of state would just shrug if there were legitimate evidence of fraud or mischief in the state’s vote-counting process.

In Arizona, Joe Biden leads by 2.4 percent, or 68,390 votes, with 86 percent of the expected vote in. The Trump campaign is confident that the ballots yet to be counted are mostly from Republican-leaning areas. For example, Yuma County, which Trump is winning by eight percentage points, has 77 percent of its estimated vote counted. (These are estimates because officials don’t know precisely how many absentee ballots will be returned and how many provisional ballots will be verified.) Cochise County, which Trump is winning by 17 percentage points, has 82 percent of its estimated vote counted. And Mohave County, which Trump is winning by 50 percentage points so far (!), has 82 percent of its vote counted as well.

Two of the state’s biggest counties say the “Sharpie” controversy on Election Night is a false rumor. A ballot marked with a Sharpie or felt-tip marker will indeed be counted; those kinds of marker are just discouraged because the ink can bleed through to the other side. The ovals on the back side of the ballot do not align with the ones on the front, so they should not spoil any ballots.

One thing is for certain: The final tally in Arizona will be close. And that decision by Fox News to call the state at 11:20 p.m. Eastern looks wildly premature at this point. Even if Biden wins when the final count is in, that doesn’t make the Fox News call right; the Trump team has a legitimate complaint that projecting a winner in a state that closely contested, with just 73 percent of the vote in, was jumping the gun.

Finally, in Pennsylvania Trump enjoys a lead of 2.6 points, or 164,414 votes — but the sense is that most of the remaining votes to be counted are from Democratic-leaning areas, and in some cases, heavily Democratic leaning areas. While the comments of the likes of Pennsylvania state attorney general Josh Shapiro will undoubtedly stir distrust and suspicion, we knew Democrats in this state were more likely to vote by mail, and Republicans were more likely to vote on Election Day. In most counties, the in-person vote was counted first, building up a solid Trump lead, and then the vote-counters moved on to the absentee ballots, which is why Biden is gaining fast.

Remember my observation in October that there were Trump signs and flags all over Bucks County? Four years ago, Hillary Clinton narrowly won Bucks, 48.4 percent to 47.6 percent, while Libertarian Gary Johnson took 2.5 percent. At this point, Trump is narrowly winning the county, 49.8 percent to 48.9 percent, with 85 percent of the estimated vote reporting. But the Philadelphia Inquirer contends the mail ballots will shift it back to Biden: “Biden trails by about 3,000 votes in Bucks County, but if current trends hold, he will have a 20,000-vote edge there after outstanding mail ballots are counted.”

Back in October, I wrote:

Does this mean Trump is going to win Bucks County? Not necessarily; all of these people who put out yard signs may have supported him four years ago, and he narrowly lost the county then. But whether or not Bucks County is Trump country, the Trump voters there ardently want to demonstrate that it is. And Trump doesn’t need to win Bucks County, he just needs to keep it close and run up his margin in the small towns and rural parts of the state.

Trump won 164,361 votes in Bucks County in 2016. This year, so far, he’s at 170,495 — meaning he’s added 6,000 votes to his total from last time.

Last cycle, 6,165,478 people voted in the presidential race in Pennsylvania. This cycle, the vote count is up to 6,348,708 already. This year, the Green Party candidate wasn’t on the ballot, and the Libertarian nominee declined from 2.38 percent to 1.2 percent so far. Trump expanded his base of support in the Keystone State — but it looks as if Biden got Democrats who stayed home in 2016 to vote for him.

If you had to guess, you would figure Trump wins Alaska, North Carolina, and maybe Arizona. You would figure Biden wins Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and Biden wins the presidency with only a swing state or two to spare — 295 electoral votes to 243 electoral votes. But if Trump regains the lead in the final count in Arizona, and keeps his lead in Georgia, and Pennsylvania . . . that adds up to 279 electoral votes for Trump, 259 electoral votes for Biden.

ADDENDA: Something to keep an eye on in the coming days: Politico has the Republicans at 190 seats in the House right now, and leading in the count so far in another 25 seats . . . which puts them at 215 seats. Remember 218 is the threshold to control the House. Probably the absentees will put the Democrats ahead in some of these . . . but this is a really nice position to be in, if the GOP wants to regain control of the House in 2022.

Today at noon, I’m scheduled to join a Heritage Foundation virtual event: “Post-Election Analysis: What Lies Ahead for America?” along with Kay C. James, Heritage Foundation president; William Bennett, former Education Secretary and Drug Czar; John Yoo, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley and fellow, American Enterprise Institute; and Byron York, chief political correspondent, Washington Examiner. Hope you’ll tune in.