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The importance of swing states to the election

By Nora Fitzgerald
@nora.fitzg

There was a lot of discussion about “red states” and “blue states” during the presidential debates. Politicians and political pundits tend to refer to states by how they vote.

Democratic states such as Massachusetts are considered blue states, while Republican states like Alabama are considered red states. Other states are more varied in their political leanings. These states, known as swing states or battleground states, greatly influence the outcome of any presidential election.

Elections are determined by the electoral vote, and the popular vote (to an extent). Essentially, a candidate needs 270 out of 538 electoral votes in order to become president. The most competitive states in the 2020 election are Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin.

These states alone make up 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden to secure the position. There are other states that will have highly contested results this election, but those six are expected to be most influential on the outcome of the 2020 election.

The competitive states are going to be crucial for either candidate to receive 270 electoral votes. Most states require that its electoral votes go towards whoever won the popular vote in that state. Electors that vote or attempt to vote against the majority are known as “faithless electors.”

The 2016 election set the record number of faithless electors during an election cycle.

In the 2016 election, all six of these states favored Donald Trump. He received 49.1 percent of Florida’s electoral votes, 48.8 percent in Pennsylvania, 47.6 percent in Michigan, 50.5 percent in North Carolina, 49.5 percent in Arizona, and 47.9 percent in Wisconsin (Politico).

Most polling projections favor Biden to win in November. Still, many people are wary of poll numbers since polls in the 2016 election were often inaccurate.

However, polls are really the only tool that can be used to anticipate election results. FiveThirtyEight is a website owned by ABC news that conducts political polls and surveys. Of the six battleground states, FiveThirtyEight is projecting a Biden win in all of them, but by very slim margins. As of October 26, Biden is leading by 2.4 percentage points in Florida, 5.2 points in Pennsylvania, 8.1 points in Michigan, 2.5 points in North Carolina, 3.0 points in Arizona, and 6.9 points in Wisconsin.

It all comes down to voter turnout. As a final campaign strategy, candidates tend to push their efforts toward gaining support in swing states.

The Trump campaign embarked on a three day trip to three different battleground states- North Carolina, Ohio, Washington – and are scheduled to host rallies in several other swing states.

Joe Biden campaigned in his home state of Pennsylvania, while former president Barack Obama campaigned for him in Florida, and is planning on hosting other drive-in events leading up to November 3. With early voter turnout already exceeding previous election years, it’s hard to say what November will bring.

Photo Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight Poll Projections

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