Donald Trump is aiming to defeat Joe Biden to win a second term in the White House - but will the president once again defy the polls in the US elections

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 presidential election so far.

What date is the 2020 US election and what time will we know the result?

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 3. 

Establishing a final result may take some time, but some states will be called a few hours after polls close. Different states stop voting at different times. 

The first polls close on the East Coast at 19:00 local time, which is 00:00 GMT.

A state is "called" by major US media outlets when one candidate has an unbeatable lead. However, this is a prediction, not a final result. 

US election results UK time

It is unclear exactly what time the US election votes will come in or when we will have a result, however, in the 2016 election, the result was called for Donald Trump at about 02:30 EST (07:30 GMT) after he surpassed 270 electoral votes.

How does the US election work and what is the electoral college?

Despite suggestions that the election could be delayed, the US elections will run as planned. The presidential elections are always held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

On November 3, voters who have not sent a mail-in ballot will head to the polls. Despite concerns over postal votes, millions of Americans will still vote on Election Day.

When votes are cast, the US voters are actually voting for a group of people called electors. The number of electors each state gets is equal to its total number of Senators and Representatives in Congress. Each elector also represents the candidate they want to become president - thus, the name the electoral college.

All 50 US states and Washington DC have a set number of "electors" in the electoral college – roughly proportionate to the size of each state. 

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The more people who live in a state, the more electors there are for that state. This also puts more emphasis on winning what is known as key states. California for example has a population of 38.8 million, and as a result has 55 votes - while Delaware, with a population of less than 1 million represents just three votes.

In total there are 538 electors which equates to 435 Representatives (Congres) and 100 Senators, plus the three additional electors from the District of Columbia. 

The candidate with the most electors wins all the state's electoral college votes and the first candidate to win enough states to get to 270 electoral votes is elected to that office.

HeraldScotland:

Only Maine and Nebraska use a winner-takes-all system, meaning that if a party wins the most votes in a state,  they win its entire haul of electoral college votes. 

To become president either candidate needs to win a majority of the 538 electors - hence the ‘magic number’ in the race to the White House is 270.

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What is the argument over the ‘popular vote’?

Usually, the president with the most amount of votes wins the election. The system normally reflects the popular vote. However, this is not always the case. While the electoral college system usually reflects the popular vote – presidents have won the number of electoral college votes but lost the popular vote. 

This has happened just five times in US history, but the most recent example was the last election. 

In 2016 Donald Trump won the electoral college but Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, won the popular vote. Clinton received 2.87 million more votes than Trump did, but Trump received the majority in the Electoral College.  Clinton was 48.2% of the vote in comparison to Donald Trump’s 46.1%.

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What are the electoral college votes of each state?

  • 55 California 
  • 38 Texas
  • 29 Florida
  • 29 New York 
  • 20 Illinois 
  • 20 Pennsylvania 
  • 18 Ohio 
  • 16 Georgia 
  • 16 Michigan 
  • 15 North Carolina 
  • 14 New Jersey 
  • 13 Virginia 
  • 12 Washington 
  • 11 Arizona 
  • 11 Indiana 
  • 11 Massachusetts 
  • 11 Tennessee
  • 10 Maryland
  • 10 Minnesota 
  • 10 Missouri
  • 10 Wisconsin 
  • 9 Alabama
  • 9 Colorado 
  • 9 South Carolina 
  • 8 Kentucky 
  • 8 Louisiana
  • 7 Connecticut 
  • 7 Oklahoma
  • 7 Oregon
  • 6 Arkansas
  • 6 Iowa 
  • 6 Kansas
  • 6 Mississippi
  • 6 Nevada
  • 6 Utah 
  • 5 Nebraska
  • 5 New Mexico
  • 5 West Virginia 
  • 4 Hawaii
  • 4 Idaho 
  • 4 Maine
  • 4 New Hampshire 
  • 4 Rhode Island 
  • 3 Alaska
  • 3 Delaware
  • 3 District of Columbia 
  • 3 Montana 
  • 3 North Dakota 
  • 3 South Dakota
  • 3 Vermont 
  • 3 Wyoming 

What are the swing states?

As seen above by the key states that pave the route to the White House, there have been over the last few decades, several key swing states that have gone either way in the last few elections. 

Polling in virtually all of the swing states shows that Joe Biden is in the lead, with the Trump campaign even cutting some advertising from states which look lost. Arizona, North Caroline, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which was the state that saw Trump over the line in 2016, currently all have leads for Biden and could have a major say in deciding the next president. 

Whoever wins the US election will need to win in most of those states. 

HeraldScotland:

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What are the big talking points around the US election?

With the presidential debates over, both parties have moved into the final stages of campaigning. Throughout the campaign, issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, racial tensions, foreign policy, and defense have dominated. There has also been a political storm over the decision to appoint Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Trump’s third judge, just one week before the presidential election.

The coronavirus pandemic has also dominated campaigning with Joe Biden hosting small events. Indeed Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, decided against traveling to Wisconsin to accept the Democratic presidential nomination because of coronavirus concerns.  Donald Trump, who of course was diagnosed with Covid-19, hosted large rallies that appeared to contradict US health guidance and social distancing. The Republican Convention was also held at the White House where it is speculated that Donald Trump may have contracted Covid-19.

HeraldScotland:

As well as Covid, Donald Trump has argued that mail-in voting is more open to fraud with the president often suggesting that he may not accept the result of the election. While more people are opting to vote via postal vote due to coronavirus restrictions, it is unclear how this will shape the outcome. Indeed, records have been smashed according to reports with almost 60 million Americans casting their ballot a week before the election. While most election experts have questioned whether it is possible for postal voting to lead to widespread fraud, the rise in postal voting could cause problems and delays in getting results. 

It is also unclear what the turn out will be like on the day with many expected to vote beforehand in postal votes due to Covid. Given the rhetoric from Donald Trump, a big turnout on the day from his supporters may be likely with Republicans less likely to use postal votes. CNN also reports that Democrats are more likely to vote early, while Republicans are backing on a big turnout on the day.

US election 2020: What time will we get a result?

Some issues remain over exactly when a result for each state will be called. This is due to the fact that many states can continue to receive late postal ballots that can still be counted. 

Although most close a few days post the election day, states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania keep their postal ballots open till November 6th. Nevada closes on the 10th along with Minnesota while Ohio allows postal ballots to be counted up until November 13. 

In the event of a recount, it could be a significant amount of time before a state formally declares. All disputes – including challenges and recounts – must be resolved by December 8th. 

As a result, a clear outcome of the election may not be known until a few days after Election Day. Although states may be declared by the media predictions, voters may not have a clear outcome.

How many electoral votes are needed to win?

To win the presidency, Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden must get more than 50%  of the electoral college vote. There are 538 possible electoral votes, which means 270 are required to win.

When will the winner take office?

The date on which a new president is sworn in is in the US constitution meaning that Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.

Who will be hosting election coverage on the BBC?

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Katty Kay and Andrew Neil will present BBC US Election 2020 results on November 3rd. Katty will be broadcasting from Washington, with Andrew providing interviews and analysis from London.