America to the polls; this is what you need to pay attention to in election night

After months of warm-up and campaigning, Tuesday is the time: it must be clear who will be living in the White House for the next four years. Will it be Donald Trump or Joe Biden? On the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, most of the results will be published by state. In the end, not the candidate with the highest number of votes, but the candidate with the most voters wins.

Correspondent Arjen van der Horst explains how this system works in this video:

Of some states, the safe states, it is already established in advance whether they will go to the Republicans or to the Democrats. In those states, Tuesday night will not be very exciting. It is quite different with the so-called swing states, or battleground states. It is there to wait and see how the inhabitants will vote.

This year seven of those swing states are extra interesting to keep an eye on. First, Pennsylvania (20 electors), Wisconsin (10 electors) and Michigan (16 electors). These were always Democratic bastions, but in 2016 they were conquered by Donald Trump with a slight difference in votes. A big question is whether Biden can turn those states back into blue on Tuesday, as a Democratic victory is called.

In addition, Florida has been the holy grail among the swing states for years: in the past six presidential elections, the candidate who won the 29 constituents of Florida became the president.

Ohio (18 electors) has never voted for the same party for a long time; since 1948, the state went to the Democrats seven times and 11 times to the Republicans. Where the state was still in Republican hands in 2004, he painted blue with victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, to return to the Republicans in 2016. Also this year it seems to be a neck-to-neck race in Ohio.

It is also important to keep an eye on the states of North Carolina and Arizona, with 15 and 11 electors respectively. Four years ago, the electors of both states went to Trump. But the difference in votes with his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton was small then. Both Trump and Biden conducted an intensive campaign over the past few weeks. The Democrats certainly do not regard these states as lost.

Let a rash wait in coming?

It‘s gonna take days for all the votes to be counted. However, it is usually clear the morning after election day who won. But this time there is a chance that there is not yet a clear winner. According to many, that chance is even life-sized.

For fear of infection with corona, many Americans do not dare to go to polling stations on Tuesday. Therefore, this time exceptionally many people vote by post. Four years ago, a quarter of the votes were cast by post; this time the share could be above 50%. All of these postal votes must, of course, be counted, and in some cases this can continue for days.

Sometimes this leads to quite bizarre situations. In most states, postal votes have to be received by 3 November. However, in some states, postal votes are still allowed to arrive until one week after the elections to be counted, including a number of swing states: Pennsylvania (November 6), Iowa (November 9), Nevada and Minnesota (November 10), North Carolina (November 12) and Ohio (November 13). They must have been sent on the day of the elections – which is shown in the postmark.

In particular, due to the huge number of postal votes, there may be delays in counting. In many states, there is a hassle about that. Then it will not just be about whether they are in time. It will be checked to see if the signatures are authentic. Whether the bills were sent in the correct envelope.

And what to do with postal votes that are in, but can no longer be counted on time? There is a high probability that multiple results will be challenged in the courts. Therefore, both parties have already hired an army of lawyers in advance.

Red mirage or blue shift?

Shortly after closing polls, the results can give a distorted picture. In many states, the Republicans are ahead in the beginning. Only when more votes are counted will the Democrats start catching up with a race. The Americans call this phenomenon the โ€œblue shiftโ€ or โ€œred mirageโ€. The results card first turns red (Republican) but then slowly becomes bluer (Democratic).

It has to do with the fact that, above all, Democratic voters vote in the post. In some states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, postal votes come later. The first interventions will therefore be based mainly on the physical voices, which makes it seem as if the Republicans have a strong lead. Only when the postal votes are taken into account in the intermediate stages does the Democrats often run morein.

The other way around: in states where postal votes are counted early, such as Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, you have a blue miracle. It looks like the Democrats win, but eventually the Republicans can make a comeback.

Resistance to the results

There are many concerns about far-right militias who will perceive any victory of the Democrats as a deception. That risk is greatest in the swing states of Michigan and Arizona. Especially there such militias have traditionally been active. Civil rights movement NAACP fears that people with automatic guns will come to intimidate voting counters.

But left-wing activists are also preparing to actively intervene. Under the heading โ€œstopping the coup d’รฉtatโ€, they intend to act quickly if, in their view, the elections are unfair.

Presidential candidates Trump and Biden are constantly on the news, but what else do you need to know about them? Correspondent Arjen van der Horst explains:


Because these elections are different from the usual ones, it is unpredictable what time the results will come. Here we give the expectations for the six most important swing states. All times are Dutch times.


Most polling stations close at 1am, some at 2am (time difference 6 hours)

Here the preliminary results are expected at 2:00 a.m.


2.30 a.m., all the votes previously cast must be known. That may seem positive for Biden.

North Carolina

Voting stations close at 01.30 a.m. (time difference 6 a.m.)

Around 1.30 a.m., the earlier votes and postal votes will come, which may seem favourable to Biden.

Between 2:30 and 7:00 a.m., the votes of the day come, which are likely to be beneficial to Trump.


Voting stations close at 3:00 a.m. (time difference 8 a.m.)

Around 4:00 a.m., the first results. They are based on the postal votes and probably beneficial to Biden. Postal votes may be counted in advance.


Voting stations close at 3:00 a.m. (time difference 7 a.m.)

The state predicts that in the evening after the election, or the next day, they will finish counting.


Most polling stations close at 2:00 a.m., some at 3:00 a.m. (time difference 6 a.m.)

The state does not expect a result until Friday, November 6, or possibly earlier, after all the votes have been counted.

The preliminary results may appear to be positive for Trump, as the postal votes are counted late.


Voting stations close at 2:00 a.m. (time difference 6 a.m.)

According to the state, it can take days, even until the weekend after the elections, for all postal votes to be counted.

The preliminary results may seem positive for Trump, as the postal votes will only be counted from 3 November.