US election: Track the race to the finish in SA time - Biznews

2 November 2020 - Political junkies across the world are avidly following the closing days of this year’s tumultuous United States (US) presidential elections, which are expected to yield the highest voter turnout in decades.

Polls, a poor predictor of victory in the last US election, have put Democrat Joe Biden as the favourite to win. A Trump win is not inconceivable, says With a Trump presidency, there could be uncertainty for emerging markets. Analysts with the Stellenbosch Bureau for Economic Research say that “[u]nder the scenario of a so-called Democratic sweep in the elections, the likelihood of another large US fiscal stimulus package – say around $1.5 trillion – would be quite high. All else being equal, this would support the US and global economic recovery in 2021, with positive spill-overs to South Africa”.  This overview of the US election in SA time is republished with permission from The Daily Friend – which is where this article first appeared. – Bernice Maune 

Nicholas Lorimer
Political junkies across the world are avidly following the closing days of this year’s tumultuous United States (US) presidential elections, which are expected to yield the highest voter turnout in decades.

This is your handy guide to what to look out for, and what time results will begin to come in, adjusted for South Africa’s time zone.

Presidential election

This year’s presidential election sees incumbent Donald Trump facing off against former vice president Joe Biden in what has been a difficult year for the US, with rioting and protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the country, the Covid-19 pandemic and an economy that has been hit hard by lockdowns and the pandemic.

It is important to remember that America votes by state, not nationally. This means the presidential election is more like 50 elections rather than one election occurring on the same day.

Each state provides a given number of electors who will choose the president; the winner must gain the support of 270 of them. The total number of votes for a candidate, the so-called ‘popular vote’ does not matter. If neither candidate wins the support of 270 electors, there is a tie and a complex process kicks off. States are allocated electors based on population, but no state can have fewer than three electors. If a candidate gets the most votes in a state, he will gain all of its electors (with the exception of Nebraska and Maine) no matter his margin of victory, This means the election will come down to the key ‘Swing States’, which are likely to be very close.

Go to to build your own map of the electoral college and see what combination of states it takes to win.

These are the key swing states to watch:

Midwest states:







North Carolina



Western States:



There is also a swing elector in Nebraska’s 2nd district and another one in Maine’s 2nd district, but these two electors will only matter in a very close election, or a tie.

Key considerations for the candidates

Trump will seek to shore up his support with his most loyal voter base – white voters without a university degree, and rural voters – who traditionally do not turn out in large numbers. Trump will be seeking to get these voters to the polls while holding on to as much support in the suburbs among white voters with a college degree – all while making some inroads with black men and Cuban Hispanic voters. Trump will also want to hold on to as many older voters as possible.

Read more: No hard questions: Why is the press going easy on Biden? – With insights from The Wall Street Journal
Biden is hoping to sway votes from or depress turnout among whites without a college degree, especially in the key battleground states. Biden will hope to build his support among white, suburban, college-educated voters, particularly women, turn out black voters to the polls, turn out non-Cuban Hispanics in the swing states and win out among Cuban Hispanics.

Both candidates will be competing aggressively for older voters; they traditionally vote Republican, but recent polling has shown they may be shifting towards Biden.

Another important dynamic of the race so far, according to polls, is the huge gender gap in preference. Traditionally, men and women mostly vote similarly but, in this election, polls indicate that while Trump is holding up among male voters, he is struggling to gain traction among female voters. One poll at the end of September had Biden up 23 points with female voters, and Trump up 7 with male voters.

Read also: View from SA: Trump heads for term two – Chuck Stephens
White voters without a college degree are most important in the swing states of:






Black turnout will be critical in every swing state except Arizona

Hispanic turnout will be key in Arizona and Florida

And Cuban American Hispanic votes will be important as they are a key swing constituency, living mostly in Florida.

Things to watch out for:

How strong support is for Biden among suburban and college-educated voters: if Biden wins these voters, he will likely do well.
Turnout among whites without a college degree: high turnout from these voters is likely good for Trump and he will need them to come out in a big way to win and defy the polls.
Black and Hispanic turnout: this will be crucial for Biden to win.
Cuban-Hispanic voter exit polls will give some insight into which way Florida will go.

Timeline of the Election

4th September: North Carolina began mail-in votes

14th September: Indiana began mail-in voting

17th September: Wisconsin began mail-in voting

18th – 19th September: Pennsylvania Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas began mail-in voting

21st – 28th September: Mississippi and Vermont, Missouri Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska and North Dakota began mail-in voting

29th September: First Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump

1st October – 9th October: District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, South Carolina, California, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Ohio, Arizona, Alaska and Montana began mail-in voting

7th October: Vice-Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris

12th October – 16th October: Idaho, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii, and Washington began mail-in voting

15th October: Planned second Presidential debate (Cancelled due to Trump’s refusal to do a virtual debate after his Covid-19 diagnosis)

22nd October: Final Presidential debate

3rd November: Election Day

4th November: Will we have a result?

By yesterday, about 63% of 2016’s votes had been cast in early voting. These votes may favour Biden, as his party has promoted early voting to get voters who are scared of Covid-19 to cast their ballots.

Added complexities with the expected mail-in votes may cause results to come out much slower than usual. In the event of a reasonably close race, we may not know who has won the election until well after 4 November. The states most likely to be prone to delay are those in the Rust Belt, as they are not experienced in mail-in balloting. Overall turnout for 2020 is expected to be the highest voter turnout in decades.

Timeline for Election Night

[Picture: Element5 Digital on Unsplash]
Remember that the eastern US will be 7 hours behind South Africa, and the west coast 10 hours behind.

(E) indicates polls in the Eastern Time Zone, as some states have multiple time zones

(C) indicates polls in the Central Time Zone

(M) indicates polls in the Mountain Time Zone

(P) indicates polls in the Pacific Time Zone

All times given here are in South African time.

3rd November – 4th November: Americans will vote for the President, the Senate, the House, and some states will elect governors.

4th November:

1:00 AM: Polls close in the eastern half of Indiana (E) and Kentucky (E)
2:00 AM: Polls close in Florida (E), South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, Georgia and the western half of Indiana (C) and Kentucky (C)
2:30 AM: Polls close in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia
3:00 AM: Polls close in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (C), Illinois, Kansas (C) Maine, Massachusetts Maryland, Michigan (E) Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota (C), Tennessee, Texas (C), Washington, D.C. and Mississippi
3:30 AM: Polls close in: Arkansas
Around 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM: we will likely see the exit polls come out. While exit polls are sometimes inaccurate, they will give a reasonable sense of where the race is, and so will tell us if it’s going to be a close race or if either candidate is doing very well.
4:00 AM: Polls close in: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan (C), Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota (M), Texas (M), Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
5:00 AM: Polls close in: Idaho (M), Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Oregon (M), and Utah
6:00 AM: Polls close in: California, Hawaii, Idaho (P), Oregon (P) and Washington
7:00 AM Polls close in: Alaska

This article was first published on the IRR's online publication, Daily Friend.