“Election Day” isn’t a finite thing – at least, not when it comes to legal closure. Using projections based upon early tallies reported by states and some exit polls, media organizations may “call” particular races tonight – and even call the entire presidential election if there are enough projections from enough states. And individual candidates – including, perhaps, President Donald Trump – may claim victory based upon those same numbers. According to Axios, Trump has told some people privately that he will declare victory tonight regardless of whether anything is settled.
One of the enduring lessons of the 2020 election should be the value of not fueling a train of misinformation – and of waiting to announce results until there are, you know, results.
But none of these declarations has legal consequences. Simply put, we stop voting today, but the election doesn’t end today – no matter what you might hear tonight. Indeed, as more and more Americans vote in more and more different ways, and as different states progressively add those votes to their overall tallies in inconsistent ways, one of the enduring lessons of the 2020 election should be the value of not fueling a train of misinformation – and of waiting to announce results until there are, you know, results.
Follow @NBCNewsTHINK on Twitter starting at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 as we highlight what our contributors are THINKing about Election Evening.
As much as any previous election, today’s is going to prove exactly why we must avoid turning the coverage of election returns into an overproduced reality show. Because arguably the nature of our modern election process is why it’s even possible for a candidate to try to prematurely claim victory in the first place.
Let’s start at the beginning. Although everyone will have voted by the end of today (whether in person today, in person before today or through a mail-in ballot sent no later than today), there isn’t a single legal respect in which the election will be over. To the contrary – every state takes some time to make sure every ballot is counted, and any irregularities are accounted for and, if a race is within a sufficiently small margin