Last night did not prove to be the Election Day landslide for Joe Biden that many analysts had thought possible, or even probable. Democrats voted early, yes. But Donald Trump more than put up a fight, bringing new voters to the polls and wooing Hispanic and Latino voters. Now, as the world awaits the full voting results of states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the question is: Can Biden still surge and win this thing?
To help answer that, I’ve been studying this very clear bar graph published by The New York Times. It charts the counted and remaining votes in Pennsylvania, where, at the time of writing this, Trump led by nearly 700,000 votes.
You might assume Trump is unbeatable. But in Pennsylvania, absentee ballots haven’t been completely counted yet. In fact, more than 1.4 million absentee ballots remain. Meanwhile, Biden has been doing well with absentees in the state, taking 78% of those votes so far.
The New York Times began with the counted votes, then it charted out a projection, with a dotted line, of what could happen with the remaining in-person votes and absentee votes, based upon how the votes have been trending. The graph is not based upon complicated mathematical modeling but pretty simple averages and addition that anyone can understand. Right now, that projection has Biden winning the state, 50.3% to 48.5%. (Note: Pennsylvania actually isn’t a necessary win for Biden if absentees are still being counted in Wisconsin and Michigan keep going his way.)
Anyone who tuned in to cable outlets last night probably experienced the same problem I did: It was difficult to tell which states and counties had counted their mail-in votes early, and which had not. That made it impossible to know if an early Biden or Trump lead was meaningful at all.
Clearly, we cannot know who will win the election until all votes are counted, but The New York Times is doing a good job here at making an educated guess, with a succinct visualization that is easy for laypeople to parse. And in this moment, a bit of clarity is truly refreshing.