Welcome to The Spinoff’s US election live blog: election news, analysis and reaction, updated throughout the day. See the latest results on an interactive US map here. Reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
9.45pm: And that’s a wrap, for now
With most of the United States fast asleep and much of the vote counting halted for the night, we’re bowing out as well. Any big overnight news will be covered by Alex Braae in the Bulletin at around 7am (sign up below to receive it), and we’ll be back with rolling updates in tomorrow’s live blog.
Thanks for reading today, get some sleep, and we’ll see you back on The Spinoff bright and early in the morning. You never know, we may even have a new president to announce.
9.15pm: Even Fox News isn’t buying President Trump’s supreme court line
As the clock struck 3am on the eastern coast of the US, Fox News returned to its in-studio anchors, who opened with a damning indictment of President Trump’s remarks in the previous hour. They played a clip in which he talked of “going to the supreme court”, to which host Brett Baier responded “he says he’d like all voting to stop – except the voting in Arizona which he’d like to continue to see if he closes the gap,” he said, before acidly adding that “we’ve called Arizona, as I mention, for Joe Biden.”
Fox’s news division is much more even-handed than the hyper-partisan opinion-forward shows fronted by hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson – but even so, the rebuke from the president’s favourite channel felt momentous.
“He says he’d like to go directly to the supreme court – that’s not how this works,” said Baier, before throwing to Shannon Bream, who noted that there is no scenario in which the president can go directly to the supreme court. “You’ve got to have a live controversy,” she said. Indeed.
9.10pm: South Dakota votes to legalise cannabis
The extremely conservative state of South Dakota tonight passed a referendum on the legalisation of marijuana, FiveThirtyEight reports. Donald Trump tonight won the state by more than 30 points.
8.55pm: Joe Biden has won Arizona, for real
Fox News’ bold decision to call Arizona for Biden before any other news network has been vindicated. The gold-standard Associated Press has now confirmed that Biden has won the state, along with its 11 electoral votes.
2020 has shown the value of independent journalism like no other year. The Spinoff’s journalism is funded by its members – click here to learn more about how you can support us from as little as $1.
8.30pm: Trump claims ‘fraud’, makes false claims, in speech at White House
“A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise” Republican voters, Donald Trump has claimed in a speech to supporters at the White House, suggesting that the ongoing counting of votes is “a fraud on the American public”. He said “we still have a lot of life” in Arizona, alluding to Fox News calling the state for Biden.
He said that it was “not even close” in Pennsylvania, asserting without evidence that the lead is insurmountable.
“We want all voting to stop, we don’t want them to find any ballots at four in the morning and add them to the list,” said Trump, saying he would be “going to the Supreme Court”.
“We’re going to win this and as far as we’re concerned we already did win it,” he added, falsely.
Earlier Trump, in a post flagged as “disputed” by Twitter, the president claimed his opponents were “trying to STEAL the election”.
On CNN, White House correspondent Jim Acosta called the speech “Historic, and historically awful.” To be clear: the races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan – all of which Trump claimed to have won – are still far from over. Contrary to the president’s claim, he has not won the election. There is no winner nor a final vote count.
8.10pm: Biden’s Minnesota win bodes well for Michigan and Wisconsin
8.05pm: So what’s happening in Georgia?
With 91% of the vote reported, Trump is ahead by 118,000 votes in Georgia. That sounds like a lot, but the precincts still to report are heavily concentrated in the Atlanta metro area – where Biden is leading by huge margins. As those precincts come in, expect Trump’s lead to be whittled away. Will it be reduced to nothing, giving Biden a narrow win, or will Trump hold on by the skin of his teeth? The next few hours may reveal the answer.
Elsewhere, another race for which Democrats held high hopes has not gone their way. In South Carolina, Lindsey Graham has held onto his Senate seat, fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison.
6.55pm: Trump claims Democrats are attempting to steal the election
The moment many feared has already happened: in a tweet, Donald Trump has claimed his opponents are trying to steal the election. His tweet was flagged as misinformation by Twitter within seconds of its appearance.
Trump seemingly deleted an earlier version of the tweet, presumably because it implicated eastern Europe in the whole circus.
2020 has shown the value of independent journalism like no other year. The Spinoff’s journalism is funded by its members – click here to learn more about how you can support us from as little as $1.
6.50pm: NZ’s news sites more confident in Biden than key US networks
A scan of the major US and NZ news sites intriguingly shows that NZ’s two major online news sites have a small but still larger number of electoral college votes called for Biden. Stuff is the boldest, at 226, with the Herald not far behind on 223. Of the major US news sites, CNN has Biden on 215, as does the Washington Post, with the New York Times a hair behind on 213.
6.50pm: A correction
At 6.25pm we reported Fox News had retracted its call that Joe Biden will win Arizona. This was incorrect: Fox stands by its call. We regret the error.
6.45pm: ‘Keep the faith, we’re going to win this’ – Joe Biden speaks to supporters
“I believe we’re on track to win this election,” Joe Biden has told supporters in a short speech near his home in Delaware. The outcome would take time to come, “maybe tomorrow morning, maybe longer … But look, we feel good about where we are, we really do,” he said.
He added “it’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare this election. That’s up to the American people.”
“We feel good about where we are, we really do. I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election. We knew because of the early vote or the mail in vote that it was gonna take a while, we’ll have to be patient, it ain’t over til every vote, every ballot is counted. We’re feeling good about where we are.
“We could know the results as early as tomorrow morning but it may take a little longer. I’m optimistic about this outcome.”
6.40pm: New York Times’ ‘election needle’ for Georgia leaning towards Biden
The southern state of Georgia is all over the place at the moment, with Trump well ahead on the vote so far but hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted in the huge urban counties in and around Atlanta. This is the reason that the New York Times’ hugely stress-inducing ‘election needle’ is now leaning Democratic in the state, giving Joe Biden a 67% probability of winning.
Unlike in 2016, the needle is following only three key races – in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina – rather than the election as a whole. The needle is now showing a 85% probability that Donald Trump will win North Carolina, and has confirmed that Trump is the winner of Florida.
5.50pm: Fox News calls Ohio for Trump
Sensing a pattern here? The conservative Fox News Network is making a ton of bold calls this evening, well before any of its TV rivals. The latest is that Ohio will go to Donald Trump, and with it the state’s 18 electoral votes. While part of the “rust belt” that includes battleground states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Ohio is considered more reliably Republican than its neighbours. In 2016, Trump won Ohio by 8 points.
Update, 6.05pm: Trump has won Ohio, CNN and ABC confirm.
5.25pm: Fox News calls Arizona for Biden
Fox News is projecting that Joe Biden will take Arizona and its 11 electoral votes. Now that he’s won Arizona, Biden can lose Pennsylvania and still get to 270 with Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd district (Nebraska is one of two states to allow their electoral votes to be split between candidates, and Biden is favoured to win in NE-2).
Still, a word of caution: MSNBC – Fox News’ ideological opposite – is saying it’s still “too early” to call Arizona.
5.20pm: Fox News calls Florida for Trump
The key state of Florida, which has been leaning towards Trump across the course of the afternoon, has been called for Trump by Fox News. Over on the New York Times there’s slightly less certainty, but even so they’re projecting a 95% chance of a Trump win with 94% of the vote counted.
This had been a target seat for the Biden campaign, which saw it as a potential pickup that would have gone a long way towards deciding the election. However, it appears a stronger than expected Latino turnout for Trump has swung it on the day.
5.00pm: Auckland’s Democrats anxiously await election results
Ruby Clavey writes: In Auckland’s viaduct, The Fox and O’Hagan’s Irish Pub are packed, the air crackling with nervous energy. Members of New Zealand Democrats Abroad have come here to watch their future government unfold. As results slowly creep in and numbers start to add up, their home starts to feel further and further away.
Kate Lewis from Baltimore, Maryland, sits watching the coverage, sporting a blue blouse — indicating which party earned her vote. Lewis has lived in New Zealand for 12 years. She says it’s too early to celebrate and too early to feel defeated. “Nothing is guaranteed. When you’re a liberal American living in New Zealand, it’s easy to forget how large Trump’s support base is, and it’s millions of people. It’s really scary.” Lewis predicts that no matter what there will be a judicial process, whether Biden sweeps the floor, or Trump stays in office.
Joey from New Orleans says today has been “anxiety inducing” to say the least. Joey, who hasn’t seen his family in the US in over a year, finds it even harder to watch the unrest happening at home. Though he’s grateful to be in New Zealand, he can’t help but feel drained. “Being so far away from home feels a little helpless, there’s not much we can do and Covid-19 has made that worse.”
Ally, originally from New Hampshire, says she is frustrated that the race between Biden and Trump is close at all. “It’s so disheartening, it shouldn’t be a close race” she says. “It’s not hard to believe there is an extremist, but the fact that half the country is willing to endorse Trump’s ideologies is … interesting.” Ally is anticipating civil unrest following the results. In Boston, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, businesses have boarded up storefronts in preparation for just such an eventuality.
Says Ally: “New Zealand just had their election and no one was boarding up buildings and shops because of what might happen. America isn’t a good place to be right now.” She says she feels some guilt being in New Zealand – able to watch the election from afar – while her friends and family are stuck back home.
“I’m very invested in the election, but I can escape from it. Our family and friends don’t get to just turn the TV off.”
4.35pm: Same-day vote breaks for Trump in key battlegrounds
As expected, Donald Trump has clawed back earlier deficits in battleground seats thanks to same-day votes. He is ahead in North Carolina with 91% of votes in, by 49.7% to 49.1%. And Trump has broken away in Texas, with a three-point lead with three quarters of all votes in.
4.15pm: Doug Jones loses in Alabama
Republican Tommy Tuberville has won election to the senate from Alabama, beating incumbent Doug Jones. Jones won a narrow victory in 2017 after his opponent, Republican Roy Moore, was accused by multiple women of making sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers. However in such a solidly pro-Trump state it was always going to be a challenge to hold onto the seat.
2020 has shown the value of independent journalism like no other year. The Spinoff’s journalism is funded by its members – click here to learn more about how you can support us from as little as $1.
4.10pm: Several states plan ahead for possible Trump win with drug votes
For people in several states that are very unlikely to vote for Trump, the legal scaffolding has been put in place to just ignore it for the next four years if he wins.
New Jersey has become the 12th state to legalise recreational marijuana, for residents age 21 and above. Arizona, South Dakota and Montana all have the measure on the ballot – though some of them are overwhelmingly likely to stay Republican.
Things are really going to get weird in Oregon, where a ballot measure is in place to decriminalise possession of all drugs. This is based on the Portugal model, which resulted in dramatic decreases in drug-related medical harm. The state will also consider legalising medical use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms.
Meanwhile, as if American politics wasn’t surreal enough, Washington DC looks likely to vote to decriminalise psychedelic plants.
4.05pm: The view from Wellington’s Democrats Abroad watch party
Political editor Justin Giovannetti writes: Democrats are meeting to watch the results in Wellington with CNN blaring in the background. There’s some Obama/Clinton gear about but there isn’t jubilation in the room. People are watching the results and swiping on their phones, groaning at some of the states that continue to vote Republican red, especially in the south.
3.50pm: New youngest Congressman enjoys attack blogging, visiting Nazi retreats
Here’s something distinctly odd about North Carolina’s new 25-year-old congressman Madison Cawthorn – he once posted a smiling selfie from The Eagle’s Nest, the retreat beloved by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. He’ll become the youngest person in Congress, taking the title from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Cawthorn himself isn’t necessarily a Nazi, and the caption on his selfie read “strange to hear so many laughs and share such a good time with my brother where only 79 years ago a supreme evil shared laughs and good times with his compatriots”. He is also notable for starting a bizarre attack website against a journalist who worked for senator Cory Booker, with one post about the journalist reading “he quit his academia job in Boston to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office”.
Over the course of the campaign, several women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Cawthorn. He also owns a real estate investment company called SPQR Holdings, Roman-era initials which have in recent years gained currency in white nationalist and skinhead circles.
North Carolina’s 11th district has been solidly Republican for most of the last 30 years. Cawthorn has celebrated his win like any 25 year old MAGA guy probably would:
3.45pm: A New Zealander in the US on the unbearable anxiety of waiting and hoping
In the days leading up to election day, fear and uncertainty ripple through America. Tess McClure, a US-based New Zealand journalist, reports on the mood from Pennsylvania and New York:
“People in New Zealand message me: ‘How is the mood there? How is it feeling? How’s the election?’ And the primary feeling, I think, is probably best expressed by the thought of those cracking teeth – anxiety, dread, nervous tension stored up in the molars.
“I ask an American friend: ‘How are you feeling?’
“She says: ‘It’s like constantly that feeling you have when you didn’t sleep and drank too much coffee instead. Overly energized and slightly manic but also like maybe you’re about to die.'”
3.20pm: How Florida could change the game – and why it may all come down to Ohio
What would a Trump win in Florida mean for the wider probabilities? Here’s polling guru Nate Silver: “If Trump wins Florida, he’d shoot up to a 33% chance of winning the Electoral College, per our choose-your-own adventure interactive. The key question, of course, is how much a pro-Trump polling error in Florida would translate to other states.”
He adds: “One thing that makes this situation pretty hard to analyze is how much we believe in Biden’s lead in Ohio. If Trump wins Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, he’s at about a 50% shot to win the Electoral College, per our scenario tester. But if Biden then wins Ohio, Trump chances plummet to 1%.”
3.10pm: Will Democrats flip the Senate?
One of the subplots to tonight’s election is whether the Democrats will reach a net gain of four seats in the Senate, thus bringing it under the party’s control. Provided Biden wins the presidency, and if as expected Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives, that would give them control over all three branches of government. If that happened, it would be a remarkable turnaround from 2016, in which Republicans swept them all.
The first seat appears to have fallen, with former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper now being projected to take the spot of Republican incumbent Cory Gardner. So far the overall tally of Senate seats is – you guessed it – still too close to call.
3.05pm: Republican senators ward off challenges in two high-profile races
In Kentucky, Senate leader Mitch McConnell has easily won re-election against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot whose campaign to unseat him never really took off. “A lot of Democrats were hopeful that McGrath could defeat McConnell in Kentucky, and they gave her $88 million in individual contributions to show it,” writes Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight. “But our forecast was always skeptical, giving McConnell a 96 in 100 chance.”
In Texas, NBC projects that Republican John Cornyn has fended off a challenge from Mary “MJ” Hegar, another Air Force veteran.
2.55pm: Centrefold ambassador Scott Brown watches election with Kiss
The US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, is watching the results roll in with friends “at a watch event” in Wellington. Here’s a picture the former Massachusetts senator and Cosmo pin-up just posted on Twitter in which he is, naturally, flanked by giant cut-outs of members of Kiss.
2.30pm: Texas and North Carolina could go to the wire
Texas is shaping up as one of the most seat-edge races. In 2016, Trump won the 38 electoral votes by 9%. With a third of the votes in, Biden is ahead of Trump by 54% to 44.7%, according to MSNBC. That comes with some serious caveats around the early vote and urban ballots dominating those numbers, but it looks like it could be in play.
Texas hasn’t gone blue in the presidential vote since Jimmy Carter won in 1976, but a boost in turnout and demographic changes have seen the Democrats cautiously hopeful about their chances.
Another state that is fascinating: North Carolina. Much, much too early to say anything remotely conclusive, but with more than 60% in, Biden has a lead over Trump in the state by 53.9% to 44.9%, MSNBC reports. That would be a massive win for the Democrats.
2.25pm: Betting markets narrow for Trump
Take these with a huge grain of salt, but betting markets are starting to give better odds of Donald Trump winning, after having heavily favouring Joe Biden in the morning. Here are the current odds on Sportsbet, Betfair and Ladbrokes respectively.It appears that some of the swing is down to Florida looking promising for Trump – the New York Times is now predicting the president is overwhelmingly likely to hold on there. That is a must-win state for Trump, and without it he doesn’t really have any pathway to victory.
2.15pm: Strength in Virginia a positive sign for Biden
As mentioned in our 11.30am update, the size of Joe Biden’s lead in early-reporting Virginia – and thus, the time it takes to project his win – could be an early indicator of the Democratic vote nationwide. For Virginia senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate in 2016, the speed at which the results were announced tonight presages a good night for Democrats.
2.05pm: Latest AP state calls
The Associated Press has called South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma for Donald Trump; Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts have gone to Joe Biden. These were all safe states for their respective parties, so no surprises yet.
1.55pm: Confirmed: A QAnon supporter is going to Congress
It always looked overwhelmingly likely, but Marjorie Taylor Greene has been elected as the representative for Georgia’s 14th District. Taylor Greene is fully on board with the QAnon conspiracy, a bizarre world view in which adherents believe President Trump is on the vanguard of a fight against a global paedophile ring, among other contentions that (to put it politely) are not supported by the evidence.
It’s a watershed moment for the QAnon world, which has never had such a strong supporter in the halls of power. It also signals a growing Republican party acceptance of the conspiracy theory. Over the latter stages of the campaign, Greene somewhat distanced herself from the specifics of QAnon support, but certainly hasn’t disavowed the wider movement.
1.45pm: AP calls Virginia and Vermont for Biden, Kentucky and West Virginia for Trump
Donald Trump has won the reliably conservative states of Kentucky (eight electoral votes) and West Virginia (five electoral votes), while Biden had taken Virginia (13 electoral votes) and Vermont (three electoral votes), the Associated Press reports.
1.30pm: Florida looking like a nail-biter
Preliminary results in Florida, mainly from early and absentee votes, show Biden is doing well, but the key Miami-Dade county is not breaking his way to the extent he might need. Biden is only ahead by 9 in a county that Clinton won by nearly 30 – not a good sign, tweets New York Times election expert Nate Cohn.
Miami-Dade is a place where we do expect Democrats to win on Election Day–unlike the rest of Florida. But I’d be stunned to see this get made up, and get Biden back up to anything like the +20 he was counting on
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 4, 2020
A reminder: Florida is a must-win for Trump, but not for Biden.
1.15pm: First physical polls close
As of 1pm, polls have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia, with polls in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia set to close at 1.30pm.
1.05pm: Three new cases of Covid-19, positive case visited pharmacy
There are three new cases of Covid-19, including the community case reported last night. The two other cases are a recent arrival from Singapore, in managed isolation, and another a “historical case”. The historical case arrived in New Zealand on October 18 from Japan. “They tested positive at around day 12. Subsequent negative repeat PCR tests, high CT values and positive serology mean we can now be confident this is not a case involving a recent infection,” said the Ministry of Health in a statement. With two cases deemed recovered, the total number of active cases is 73.
The second community case, a close workplace contact of the Sudima health worker, remains asymptomatic. The person “briefly visited The Chemist Warehouse at the South City Mall between 3.52pm and 4:03pm on Friday 30 October”. They “didn’t have any close contact with other people during their time there, so the visit is regarded as very low risk and a ‘casual’ exposure event”.
All the international mariners at the Sudima “have had their stays extended until Friday as an additional precautionary measure. This will continue to be reviewed as case investigations continue”.
12.55pm: The Bulletin World Weekly on the US elections
The Bulletin World Weekly, our special Members-only weekly wrap of the biggest international news, is back – with a difference. Alex Braae has handed the reins to Peter Bale, a vastly experienced New Zealand-born journalist and editor, back in the country after a glittering career overseas. Peter’s CV includes stints at Reuters, CNN, Times Online, the investigative non-profit Center for Public Integrity, and Alex Braae’s favourite paper in the world, the Wairarapa Times-Age. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s US election-focused edition:
Send lawyers, guns and money
Jonathan Swan, the Australian reporter for politics site Axios, who spent years ingratiating himself with the Trump White House only to conduct that devastating interview in which Trump self-incriminated himself repeatedly, reported on Monday that the tactics to call the entire election process into question need to be taken both seriously and literally.
‘President Trump has told confidants he’ll declare victory on Tuesday night if it looks like he’s “ahead,” according to three sources familiar with his private comments. That’s even if the Electoral College outcome still hinges on large numbers of uncounted votes in key states like Pennsylvania,’ Swan wrote in the lead of his story billed as a ‘Scoop’.
Trump’s own comments, entirely at variance with electoral history in the United States, did nothing to dispel the sense that shenanigans could be afoot: “I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election. … We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”
If only it were just lawyers. It appears to be the full set from the Warren Zevon song, ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’.
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12.20pm: Promising signs in key Florida county
While the expert consensus is that you shouldn’t read too much into in-person exit polling – especially in this election, when so much of the vote has been absentee – this thread from polling analysis guru Nate Silver may be an indication of where the vote is heading. A quick reminder: in general, “exit polling” in the US isn’t actually asking people who they voted for as they leave the booth. Rather, it’s a measure of the publicly available party affiliation of each voter (in most states voters are allowed to mark their party affiliation, or their unaffiliated/independent status, on their voter registration form). Of course a person may not ultimately vote according to their registered party affiliation, which could be years out of date, but it’s a good hint of which way the vote will go.
“One thing that does seem clear in the Election Day numbers is that the GOP [Republican] vote came out early but the vote is becoming less Republican (and more indie) over the course of the day,” tweeted Silver. An example of this is Broward County on Florida’s east coast, where Silver notes the Republican vote is quickly shrinking, resulting in a “very big blue [Democratic] shift over the course of the day”. We shall see.
11.50am: The Kim Dotcom Supreme Court decision, explained
New Zealand’s highest court has just ruled internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three others liable for extradition on all but one count – but they had been wrongly denied a judicial review. So what does that mean for Dotcom’s future in New Zealand? Toby Manhire explains what’s next here.
And a reminder of what this case is all about:
“The US alleged that the German-born Dotcom and his associates were breaching copyright laws and undertaking money laundering and racketeering through their file-sharing service Megaupload – a site replete with movies and music and which, Dotcom boasted, was responsible for “four per cent, of the internet” as far as traffic was concerned. He always insisted, however, that Megaupload removed content in breach of copyright when they were alerted to its existence.
“They wanted Dotcom and three others extradited to the US to face those charges, which led to the men’s arrest early in 2012 in New Zealand, where they had been based since 2010.”
11.45am: How NZ networks will cover the US election
Both One News and Newshub on Three will be going live from 4pm to cover the US election. Each has people on the ground: For One, Anna Burns-Francis will be live from Trump HQ, while Jack Tame will be covering Biden. Paddy Gower will be roving wherever the mood takes him for Newshub. They’ll break for an hour at 6pm, and then get back to it from 7pm through to 8.30pm. By then, we should possibly maybe have a reasonable idea of who might have come close-ish to potentially winning.
If you’re not near a television, it’s highly likely that Radio NZ and Newstalk ZB will be doing regular updates through the afternoon and evening.
And if you’ve got Sky TV, your choices open up dramatically: From the sober and dispassionate BBC, to the endlessly turgid panel discussions of CNN, to the feces flinging of Fox News – there’s really something for everyone.
11.30am: The states to watch early on
There are a few states that could provide early clues about the state of the presidential race. To be clear, that doesn’t only mean surprise wins or losses – there’s also information to be gleaned from the size of a particular win. Take Virginia, for example, which tends to count votes quickly and should be able to report not long after polls close at 1pm NZ time. In 2016, the fact that Hillary Clinton’s winning margin there wasn’t as large as expected was an early indicator of the disaster about to unfold. If Biden not only wins Virginia, but wins big, Democrats will be feeling a lot more confident as they wait for the battleground states to be called.
The earliest of those battleground states likely to be called are Florida and North Carolina, both of which are expected to count their votes relatively quickly. If Biden wins either one of those – but especially Florida and its 29 electoral votes – that’s an excellent sign for Democrats. If however Trump wins both, there’s no need to panic quite yet (though let’s be honest, we definitely will). Biden still has multiple paths to victory, but the election will clearly not be the landslide Democrats were hoping for.
Polls close later in Arizona, but again votes are expected to be counted quickly. If Biden wins there – and FiveThirtyEight gives him a 68% chance of doing so – that’s another extremely promising sign.
11.20am: Kim Not-Yet-Gone? Supreme Court dismisses appeals against extradition
We interrupt our US election live blog to deliver some breaking New Zealand news:
The Supreme Court has ruled that Kim Dotcom and three other co-accused can be extradited to the United States on copyright infringement charges. However, it is subject to a potential judicial review, meaning Dotcom won’t be forced onto a plane any time soon. Dotcom, Matias Ortmann, Bram van de Kolk and Finn Batato were arrested in 2012 in relation to the Megaupload website, and have been fighting extradition ever since. Once the judicial review process is completed, a final decision will be made on whether the four will be forced to surrender.
11.10am: Why you should wait for the AP to call each race
One of the time-honoured media traditions in US elections is the race to project winners first. Networks compete with each other to provide the most up to date possible coverage, and sometimes this involves making assumptions about how an individual election will go (that doesn’t always end up coming true.) The Associated Press don’t do that, and that’s why they’re regarded as the best in the business. They call races, rather than project winners. This doesn’t mean they wait until every single vote is counted – rather it involves eliminating every possible path to victory for every candidate, bar the winner. Their reasoning is explained here:
AP’s race callers and Decision Desk are driven entirely by the facts. Race calls made by other organizations have no bearing on when AP declares a candidate the winner. Our decision team does not engage in debate with any campaign or candidate. Should a candidate declare victory – or offer a concession – before AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain the reason why we believe the race is too early or too close to call.
10.50am: When will we start getting results?
As laid out in this very useful graph shared by New Zealander Luke Appleby, polls begin closing in the easternmost part of the nation at 12pm NZ time, and the last of them – on the far flung western islands of Alaska – close at 7pm. However the election could be called even earlier than that: by agreement, the news media must wait until 5pm NZT to make a nationwide call, and if the results are decisive (ie, a clear Biden or Trump win) we may not have to wait much longer. That’s a big if, however. Should Trump show signs of strength in the battleground states – for example picking up Florida or North Carolina, both of which are expected to announce not long after polls close – the contest could stretch through the night, and possibly into the next days or week.
10.20am: US on track for highest voter turnout since 1908
The past week has some truly jaw-dropping early vote numbers from a number of states. A day out from election day, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, and Georgia had already recorded more than 90% of 2016 total voting levels. In Texas, early voting was even more of a success: with almost 10 million early votes cast, its total early vote represents 108% of 2016’s total number. In Hawaii, it’s more than 110%.
We’ll have to wait to discover what this means for the result of the election, but we already know one thing: turnout is set for record-breaking levels, the highest in over a century, with some forecasters projecting 65% of registered voters will cast a ballot, reports Vox. In 2016, voter turnout was around 55%.
9.45am: The Daily is live
The New York Times’ weekday podcast The Daily has been an essential accompaniment to this election campaign, and today it’s live. Running now until 1pm, host Michael Barbaro is joined by deputy managing editor Caroline Ryan and NYT reporters calling in from around the nation. If you can’t quite face cable news this early in the morning, this could be a good alternative. Altogether now: “Here’s what else you needtoknowtoday”
9.30am: The battleground races
As with all elections in the modern era, the results in most states are a foregone conclusion: California and New York always go Democratic, for example, while Missouri and Oklahoma are a lock for the Republicans. This year’s presidential election, then, will likely hinge on just a few battleground states. The key ones are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; on the back of some good polls for Democrats in recent weeks, Texas and Ohio have been added to the pile, though they are considered more of a reach. Iowa, which until recently appeared to be heading into toss-up territory, now seems likely to be held by Trump.
In the senate, the Republican-held senate seats that could flip to the Democrats include Maine (incumbent Susan Collins, challenger Sara Gideon), North Carolina (incumbent Thom Tillis, challenger Cal Cunningham), Arizona (incumbent Martha McSally, challenger Mark Kelly), Colorado (incumbent Cory Gardener, challenger John Hickenlooper), Iowa (incumbent Joni Ernst, challenger Theresa Greenfield), Montana (incumbent Steve Daines, challenger Steve Bullock), and Georgia, where due to a vacated seat there are two races: a regular election (incumbent David Perdue, challenger Jon Ossoff) and a special election, where Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat, is running against an open field including fellow Republican Doug Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock. If none of the candidates achieve 50% of the vote today, in either race, the top two vote-earners will go to a runoff in January.
The only currently Democratic-held senate seat that is at real risk is in Alabama, where Doug Jones is in the fight of his life to hold onto his seat in a solidly pro-Trump state. Jones won a narrow victory in 2017 after his opponent, Republican Roy Moore, was accused by multiple women of making sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers. This year his challenger is Tommy Tuberville, a well-known former football coach.
Update: 10.50am: Nervous US-New Zealander Doug Dillaman writes: “I’m a Michigan voter and my family’s there, and they are very worried about the senate race there. In recent days the polling has started to break for the incumbent Democratic senator Gary Peters, but I’m not rushing to judgment that it’s a safe seat. FiveThirtyEight has it at 83%, so there’s more risk of it going red than a Trump presidency! (Also after last time I have zero ability to feel comfortable trusting polls.)”
So if you want one more thing to be nervous about, feel free to add this Michigan senate race to your mental pile – but an 83% probability is pretty good, let’s be honest.
8am: So who’s going to win?
There’s been an absolute deluge of polls over the last few weeks, and seasoned watchers warn against reading too much into any single poll. They’re best consumed in that aggregate, and Nate Silver’s statistics-heavy site FiveThirtyEight is considered the gold standard for this sort of analysis. Silver’s prediction model “relies on state polls, which it combines with demographic, economic and other data to forecast what will happen on election day”, coming up with an ever-changing forecast for the presidential, senate and house races.
FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast, updated for the final time around 6.30pm last night, gives Joe Biden an 89% probability of winning the 2020 election. Before you get too excited, remember that’s a 1 in 10 chance that Trump could win – and when you consider what a Trump second term could mean, those are odds that few of us will like.
For comparison, on the day of the election in 2016 Hillary Clinton had a 71.4% probability of winning. In the battleground states, final polls have Biden ahead of where Clinton was on election day.
In the Senate, FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats a 75% chance of winning enough races to take control.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have a 97% chance of retaining control of the House (which is why you’re hearing so little about house races this cycle).
4am: Today’s election – the basics
US presidential elections are decided through a system known as the electoral college. Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes depending on its population size: at the low end, 3 votes for small states like Delaware, South Dakota and Alaska; at the other end of the scale, the most populous state, California, gets a whopping 55. Win a majority in a state, and you get all that state’s electoral votes (the states of Maine and Nebraska are an exception – both allow their electoral votes to be split between candidates). With a total of 538 electoral votes across all states, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. You can see an interactive map of the states with their respective electoral votes (and play around to see how individual wins or losses could affect the final result) here.
Thirty-five Senate seats are also being contested today, with Democrats hoping to win enough races to overturn the Republicans’ current 53-47 majority.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives – usually referred to as just “the House” – are also being contested. Democrats currently control the House by a sizable margin.
3am: Welcome to the Spinoff’s US election live blog
Deputy editor Catherine McGregor writes: Four years ago, I was sitting at my desk in The Spinoff’s old Britomart office as the results of the US presidential election came in. Like many of you, I remember scrolling Twitter, first optimistically and then with increasing despair, as it became clear that Donald Trump would be the 45th president of the United States. I also remember walking home that night after the election had been called, and thinking about how a four year term was a really long time – but also that, like all things in life (I was feeling pretty emo, I’ll be honest), it would one day be over.
And now here we are. Today is election day in the United States, and by late afternoon there’s a good chance we’ll know whether Trump has been re-elected for a second term or if former vice-president Joe Biden will return to Washington DC, this time as president. Today isn’t just the culmination of a four year saga of presidential malpractice, mismanagement and scandal heaped upon scandal; it’s also the answer to a question with global significance, including to those of us living here in New Zealand. That’s why we’re devoting today’s live blog to the election results – though if a big local news story does happen, we’ll break in to cover that too.
Your usual live updates editor is off today to take part in a long-delayed university graduation ceremony (congratulations Stewart!) and has handed the reins to me, The Spinoff’s resident US politics obsessive. And here I’ll lay my cards on the table. While The Spinoff considers itself nonpartisan here in New Zealand, as an organisation we are unambiguously partisan in regard to this election, and the existential threat to democracy that Donald Trump represents. Along with the rest of my colleagues, I desperately want Joe Biden to be president, and for Democrats to win as many house and senate races as possible, and today’s coverage will reflect that view. With that duly stipulated, we’re off to the races. May the best man win.
2am: Yesterday’s headlines
There were five new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and another case in the Christchurch community linked to the Sudima managed isolation facility.
In response to the Christchurch case, Otago University Covid-19 expert Nick Wilson harshly criticised the managed isolation system and called for an urgent review
Joe Biden and Donald Trump crisscrossed the US on the final day of campaigning for the 2020 presidential election.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield was nominated for TV Personality of the Year 2020 in the NZ TV Awards.