The paradox of the GOP position on ballot counting

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Days till we know who won: ?????? (More on that in a moment).

Ballots already cast: 66.5 million+.

Numerical context: More people have now voted overall in 2020 than voted for either Hillary Clinton (65.9 million) or Donald Trump (63.0 million) in 2016.

The fantasy Trump wants you to believe -- Despite what the President keeps repeating, the election is not over at midnight on November 3. If you've read much of this newsletter, you've seen our warnings, contra Trump, not to prejudge the results.

Counting the votes could (likely will!) take a while. That's a fact. Which is why Twitter marked Trump's tweet Tuesday that results must be known on election night as misleading. We "must know final total November 3rd," he wrote in the post, which also made wild allegations about mail-in ballots.

That's fantasy, not a fact. He wants you to think that because Democrats are more inclined to vote by mail this year. That's a fact borne out in early voting data. Those mail-in votes might not be counted at all in some places until the day AFTER Election Day. Here's the full breakdown on when states can start processing ballots.

Late start in a key state. Counties in Pennsylvania, which is shaping up to be the most contested battleground in the closing days of the election, can't start processing mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

But they aren't required to start processing those ballots until three days after Election Day. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is encouraging counties to process ballots ASAP on Election Day. Separately, Trump threatened Wolf that he'd withhold relief funding from Pennsylvania the next time the state needs it. Which is bonkers.

But some counties may wait. An official in Erie County, which has been heavily contested by the candidates this year, told CNN's Kelly Mena the county would turn to mail-in ballots late at night, after day-of results had been processed. Cumberland County, which supported Trump in 2016, is one of the ones that have previously transmitted they won't process mail-in votes on Election Day. In this year's primary, it took the county three days to process mail-in votes. If this thing is close, that means everyone will be waiting on those results.

Wisconsin is another battleground state that could help decide the election, and also one of four that do not allow processing before Election Day. See a map of all states and Adam Levy's story.

Efforts to bring Pennsylvania in line with the majority of US states and allow election officials to process the expected crush of mail-in ballots earlier than November 3 have been rejected by the Republican-controlled state House.

Republicans at the national level, in other words, have teed up this fantasy that the results must be known while their fellow party members have blocked, at the state level in battlegrounds, tweaks to election law that would make counting votes easier and faster.

Kavanaugh thinks results are 'flipped' by counting votes

Now Trump is getting some comfort from the Supreme Court, where Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who along with fellow Justices John Roberts and Amy Coney Barrett, worked with the Bush campaign in 2000 to squash a Florida recount, transmitted Monday night that he's not going to help hold the doors open to get votes counted.
In the footnote to an opinion in which he and the majority rejected attempts to allow mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received in the days after, Kavanaugh sounded a heck of a lot like Trump, as CNN's Ariane de Vogue wrote:

States that require mail-in ballots to be returned by the Election Day, Kavanaugh wrote in his concurring opinion, "want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election."

Kavanaugh shows his hand here with the phrase "flip the results of an election."

Anyone interested in democracy (or a basic reading of US election law) would realize the results aren't known until the votes are counted. Kavanaugh sounds every bit the GOP lawyer he once was when he argues it's the timeline, not the votes, that should determine a winner. It's exactly what he did for George W. Bush 20 years ago.

There is a lot of time -- more than a month! -- to count votes and settle disputes. And even that deadline isn't very hard, according to some legal experts.

Electoral votes -- The real things that determine the winner of US presidential elections, for better or worse, aren't due until December 14. And they aren't counted until January 4.

Rest assured, Wolf Blitzer won't announce CNN has projected a winner unless CNN's decision desk sees no statistical possible change. At the same time, Blitzer is not the official arbiter of elections. States are.

States, under the Constitution -- as Brett Kavanaugh, originalist -- should know, run their own elections. They have more than a month to count ballots and settle disputes under federal law. (Bookmark the full post-election timeline.)

Election night will be an emotional roller coaster. That's guaranteed.

No one really knows how this election night will go, but here are some scenarios. First, make three assumptions (which could be wrong, but are backed up by data):

Now let's apply those assumptions to what we know about election night:

Excitement for Biden early -- The explosion of early voting in Florida, a state that allows officials to process those ballots ahead of time, means there could be a whole lot of already-counted vote to be reported when the last polls close in the state at 8 p.m. ET.

The same could be true in in Georgia and North Carolina, two more key states with early poll closings.

If those early results do favor Democrats, that means the early returns on election night could potentially look better for Biden than the final results.

One week from Election Day, early voters so far are younger, more racially diverse and more likely to be Democrats than they were ahead of the 2016 election in many of the key states that could decide the next president.

He has data from key states nationwide, and the story in almost all of them is the growth of young voters in that early vote. Read more.

Then, excitement for Trump -- But this possible early Biden bump may not last if states like Florida report early voting when polls close.

Election Day returns, which could favor Republicans, may very well make things tighten up as the night progresses. It could feel very exciting to watch CNN's John King at the Magic Wall and see the numbers get closer. Tune in!

Further, in Pennsylvania, when polls close at 8 p.m. ET, and in Michigan and Wisconsin, when polls close at 9 p.m. ET, it is possible the early Election Day vote further favors Trump, even though a lot of absentee votes are still waiting to be counted. Some good-seeming premature news for Republicans.

This so-called red mirage could occur in a number of states and it's why Trump wants election night results to be the results, even though they aren't.

Finally, the blue shift, when ballots trickle in by mail to the states that count ballots postmarked by Election Day but arriving afterward. Democrats are more likely to say they'll vote by mail, recall.

So if we end election night without a projected winner, it's almost guaranteed there will be some movement toward Biden in the days after Election Day.

And that's how the whole country, collectively, red and blue, gets an ulcer together.

But you'll just have to bear with it and wait for the votes to be counted. And honestly, there are always surprises in an election. Always.

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