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Election Day: A user guide
There are other things happening today, but the most attention will be on the U.S. election, given the stakes. Here’s what you should know going into today — and what to expect after voting closes.
Where do things stand?
The final polls show “a smidge of tightening, but Biden ends with a commanding lead,” The Times’s Nate Cohn writes.
Can the polls be trusted?
Nate notes that pollsters have sought to fix one of their biggest mistakes in 2016: misunderstanding voters without a college degree, who are less likely to respond to phone surveys. There are other wrinkles this time around, namely that there are no major third-party candidates and fewer voters who say they are undecided. Nearly 100 million votes have already been cast, shattering records and signaling that turnout could be high.
What’s the best way to follow the action?
Our live coverage of the election is now available without a subscription. And our reporters are tracking and debunking misinformation on the Daily Distortions live briefing. The first-ever live broadcast of “The Daily” will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern, featuring interviews with voters and Times correspondents across the country.
What are the markets doing?
U.S. stock futures are up today, suggesting a second day of gains. A decline over the previous three months has historically been a bad sign for the incumbent, but the S&P 500 falling less than 1 percent between July and October is hardly a clear signal this time around.
Wall Street’s main concern is what the election will mean for the prospects of another stimulus bill, and The Times’s Matt Phillips lays out the various scenarios that strategists are anticipating. Stepping back, “the medium-term path for markets is more contingent both on fiscal stimulus and on vaccine approval and distribution rather than the election result,” Mark Haefele of UBS wrote in a note to clients.
When will we know the results?
Official results won’t be certified immediately — more on that below — but news outlets like The Associated Press typically declare a winner based on early returns. To get into the nitty-gritty of county-by-county results, here’s a handy guide. (For what it’s worth, in 2016 the election was settled around 2:30 a.m. Eastern after Wisconsin was called for Mr. Trump.)
Is The Times doing the election-night needle again?
Sort of. Instead of one needle representing the national race (which would be impossible given the amount of mail-in ballots), we’ll have three tracking the key battleground states of Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. These states release their results starting at 7 p.m. Eastern and should give the clearest guidance of how close the count may be.
What if there is no obvious winner?
Several cases may end up on the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket” of emergency matters. In ballot fights so far, the court has tried to maintain a delicate balancing act, and has mostly respected state deadlines on voting without ruling on specifics. (Justice Amy Coney Barrett, however, may play a key deciding role in election cases.)
What if a candidate claims victory anyway?
They don’t decide the issue, of course, but they could try to declare a win, presenting news networks with a big challenge. Ultimately, states will certify their official results, but that may not come for days or weeks — and could be subject to legal challenges.
How will social media handle the election?
Facebook will add a notification at the top of users’ feeds stating that no winner has been chosen until results have been verified by vetted outlets. After polls close, it will suspend all political ads on its namesake app and Instagram.
Twitter will label tweets from candidates claiming victory before the election is called by authoritative sources. It will also work to root out bots that spread misinformation.
YouTube will display a fact-check information panel above election-related search results and below videos about the topic.
What else is on the ballot?
There are plenty of important matters to be decided at the polls, beyond candidates for the White House and Congress.
Taxes are a major issue, including Arizona’s Proposition 208, which would impose a 3.5 percent income tax on the wealthy, and California’s Proposition 15, which — as we noted yesterday — would effectively raise commercial property taxes. Several states are asking voters whether to legalize marijuana, including Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Another issue is labor, with Floridians voting on Amendment 2, which would raise the state minimum wage, and Californians deciding on Proposition 22, which would classify gig drivers as contractors and not employees. (For good measure, Arkansas and Florida have ballot measures about … ballot measures.)
What happens after the presidential result is known?
If President Trump prevails, Republicans will need to decide which issues to support him on, particularly after many distanced themselves from him on the campaign trail. “The party is headed toward a reckoning, whatever happens in November, because you still have large segments of the party establishment that are not at all reconciled with the president’s victory in 2016,” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri told The Times.
If Joe Biden wins, he will have to keep the peace between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party over prominent members of his administration (Senator Elizabeth Warren for Treasury secretary, anyone?). That’s an issue for current advisers like Ben Harris to help him sort out.
And no matter who is in the White House, he will face an economy that is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Signs of the times, in corporate earnings reports. The positive: Clorox’s profit doubled in the third quarter, to $415 million, and the company said it was having a hard time keeping up with demand for disinfectants. The negative: The movie theater chain AMC said it had lost $906 million in the quarter and announced plans to sell $50 million in stock to avert filing for bankruptcy protection.
A top U.S. health official warns of a new and “deadly phase” of the pandemic. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, wrote in an internal memo that officials were too focused on preventing lockdowns, not stopping Covid-19. “We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” she wrote.
Bayer fails to settle lawsuits over its Roundup weedkiller before a court-imposed deadline. The company disclosed that 1,861 cases, out of 3,787, haven’t been settled. A federal judge had given the company until yesterday to reach settlements before he let trials resume over claims that the weedkiller caused cancer.
Beijing puts Ant Group on notice. Chinese financial regulators summoned Jack Ma, the financial giant’s co-founder, and other top company executives to discuss “views regarding the health and stability of the financial sector.” The meeting comes days before Ant’s shares are scheduled to begin trading, after it raised at least $34 billion in the world’s biggest I.P.O.
A nod for Jack Dorsey’s job atop Twitter. The social network said that a special board committee, formed this spring after the activist investor Elliott Management took a stake in the company, recommended that Mr. Dorsey stay on as C.E.O. (Elliott’s head of U.S. equity activism was part of the committee.)
What companies are saying
On quarterly earnings calls, most executives stick to the finer points of R&D plans and operating margins. But more than a third of S&P 500 companies have mentioned today’s election on calls over the past month or so, according to FactSet, up from a fifth in the same period before the 2016 vote.
The most common election-related subject was taxes, followed by prospects for stimulus and new regulations. “If you have a Democratic win,” said Rich Walsh of Valero Energy, “they’re probably going to want to look at higher taxes and probably more regulation.”
Unrest was also a worry. “We’ve got an election coming up tomorrow, potential social unrest,” Dan Schulman of PayPal told investors yesterday, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook said last week: “I’m worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there is a risk of civil unrest across the country.”
Asked about the uncertainty around the election, on top of the pandemic and a fragile economy, Carlos Rodriguez of ADP summed it up: “I just want to get through this damn thing, right, and get out to the other side.”
“We want to do it just like last time, but let’s give me a little bit more margin.”
— President Trump, at his final pre-election rally in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“The power to change this country is in your hands.”
— Joe Biden, at his final pre-election rally in Pittsburgh, Pa.
This item isn’t about the election
To mix things up, here are a few more stories not about today’s vote:
Score one for humanity. Walmart is ending plans for 6-foot-tall robots to scan its store shelves, The Wall Street Journal reports. In scrapping a contract with Bossa Nova Robotics, the retail giant will instead rely on a simpler solution: people.
Score one for statuary. A train in the Netherlands nearly plunged 30 feet off an elevated rail yesterday — but was stopped by a sculpture of a whale tail. No one was hurt. “It’s like the scene of a Hollywood movie,” a government official told The Times. “Thank God the tail was there.”
Score one for sanity. If you need to take your mind off politics (or the pandemic or, frankly, any other stressor), check out The Times’s collection of mental health breaks, featuring a digital stress ball, a virtual emotional support dog, cute animal videos and more.
THE SPEED READ
Nvidia’s $40 billion takeover of the chip designer Arm faces an unexpected obstacle: a potential battle for control of Arm’s China joint venture. (FT)
Alibaba is reportedly in talks to invest nearly $300 million in Farfetch, the London-based online fashion retailer. (The Information)
Citigroup’s chief risk officer, Brad Hu, plans to step down, months after the bank mistakenly wired $900 million to creditors of Revlon. (FT)
Politics and policy
Fact-checking Mr. Trump’s misleading claim that he “prepaid millions” in federal income taxes. (NYT)
State governments paid millions to consultants for help managing Covid-19, but the results have been mixed. (WSJ)
Four top executives at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, including its C.O.O., are leaving. (Bloomberg)
TikTok signed a licensing agreement with Sony Music that will allow users to incorporate songs from Beyoncé and Harry Styles in their videos. (Reuters)
Best of the rest
The new head of Goldman Sachs’s Marcus division, Omer Ismail, faces a daunting task: how to turn the Wall Street powerhouse into a consumer lending giant. (Bloomberg)
Executives have been notably uninterested in insider buying of late. (Bloomberg)
“How to Stay Creative When Life Feels Monotonous” (Harvard Business Review)
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