This has been a most unusual election season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the presidential race in a motley of ways and led to early votes being cast by 100 million people before Election Day. The shock of Donald Trump’s surprise win over Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016 hangs over the 2020 vote as racial divisions and pandemic-related economic shutdowns continue to plague society. 

As tension and anticipation build up with tens of millions of people voting on Election Day, several “battleground states” remain key as both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden compete to rack up 270 Electoral College votes and win the election.

As results start to pour in Tuesday night, here’s a quick guide to the eight states to watch closely and why they’re so important.

1. Florida

Electoral Votes: 29

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 49% to 46%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by a 1.2% margin

Why it’s important: Florida has long established itself as a crucial state in presidential elections; the state’s controversial 2000 results gave George W. Bush victory over Al Gore. This year, Trump’s poor handling of COVID-19, which has been especially lethal to the oldest Americans, has shaken his support among Florida senior citizens, a usually reliable Republican voting bloc. 

Meanwhile, Biden has been underperforming among Latino and potentially Black Floridians, though that may change on Election Day. Additionally, as Blavity previously reported, Florida has restored voting rights to those with felony convictions, but subsequent moves by the Republican government and the courts have limited rights restorations through the use of fines and fees that must be paid off to regain the vote. All this sets up a Florida race that will be close, unpredictable, and potentially decisive for the entire election.

When do the polls close: 7 p.m./8 p.m. EST (Florida is in both EST and CST)

2. Pennsylvania

Electoral Votes: 20

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 50% to 44%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by a .7% margin

Why it’s important: Pennsylvania was long part of the “Blue Wall,” a collection of states that, up until 2016, consistently went to Democrats in presidential elections and together accounted for close to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win. Trump was able to defeat Hillary Clinton by narrowly winning three of the 18 states which once belonged to the Blue Wall with Pennsylvania being the largest. Trump has hoped to repeat his performance in these three states, but Scranton native Biden has been performing well in the state, and President Trump will have a very hard time winning the election without it.

However, as Blavity previously reported, Philadelphia has been rocked by protests after the killing of Walter Wallace Jr. by police, leading to clashes and restrictions which could disrupt voting in the heavily Black and Democratic city. Furthermore, Republicans are using the court system to challenge mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and other states, hoping to throw out many of the absentee ballots already cast in the state.

When do the polls close: 8 p.m. EST

3. Michigan

Electoral Votes: 16

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 51% to 42%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by .3%

Why it’s important: The second of three Blue Wall states that Clinton lost in 2016, Trump won Michigan by less than 11,000 votes last time. This time, however, Biden has built up a sizable lead in the state, and President Barack Obama first joined Biden on the campaign trail in Michigan, hoping to solidify the Democrats’ lead in the state. But Trump has also campaigned hard in the state, holding five rallies there in the last week alone.

When do the polls close: 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. in eastern counties

4. Wisconsin

Electoral Votes: 10

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 52% to 42%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by .7%

Why it’s important: Wisconsin is the last of the Blue Wall states to fall to Trump in 2016. This year, it has been front and center in the battle over racial justice with the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, and the shooting of several protesters by white teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse.

Biden has called for both peace in the state and racial justice, while Trump has expressed a “law and order” message aimed at the suburbs and laced with dog whistles for white residents fearful of racial unrest. Though Biden brings a sizable lead into Election Day, it will be seen whose message ultimately appealed to more Wisconsin voters.

When do the polls close: 9 p.m. EST

5. Texas

Electoral Votes: 38

What did the polls say before Election Day: Trump leading Biden 48% to 46%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by 9%

Why it’s important: Though more of a long shot for Biden – the last time Texas voted for a Democratic presidential candidate was when Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976 – young voters and a large Latino population have been shifting the state from Republican red to competitive purple over recent years. Furthermore, in past elections Democratic-leaning demographics such as the state’s Black and Latino citizens have suffered from low participation. This year, however, Texas voters are showing up like never before – the number of Texans who voted early in 2020 has already exceeded the total number of Texans who have ever voted in any previous election.

However, Republicans have been working to limit the number of Texans who can vote. As Blavity previously reported, the state’s governor implemented a rule allowing only one drop off location per county for absentee ballots. Now, Republicans are attempting to have over 100,000 votes thrown out in Harris County, a largely Black and Latino and that includes Houston. That effort seems to have been defeated, but the Trump campaign has an army of lawyers on hand today throughout the country, meaning that the fight in Texas and elsewhere might not be over.

When do the polls close: 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. in many counties

6. Georgia

Electoral Votes: 16

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 49% to 46%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by 5.1%

Why it’s important: Georgia is another state that has long been red but has been gradually turning purple over the years. Most notably, Democrat Stacy Abrams nearly won Georgia’s race for governor in 2018, only losing when her opponent resorted to widespread voter disenfranchisement that prevented many Black Georgians from voting. This year, Georgia has been the scene of significant work towards voter turnout and mobilization, from Abrams to the Biden campaign. Georgians came out in large numbers to take advantage of early voting, even enduring multi-hour waits in Black neighborhoods to vote. Plus, as Blavity previously reported, several important Congressional races are also motivating Black voters to come out in the state, further increasing Democrats chances of turning the state.

When do the polls close: 7 p.m. EST

7. North Carolina

Electoral Votes: 15

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leading Trump 50% to 46%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump by 3.6%

Why it’s important: North Carolina has truly been a swing state, going to Barack Obama in 2008 but siding with Republicans Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Democrats have believed that expanded mail-in voting in North Carolina will help them this year, but the policy has faced multiple legal challenges, including strict signature requirements and a lawsuit to throw out votes that come in after Election Day.  If there are legal disputes after the polls close on Election Day, North Carolina is likely to be one of the states where results or vote-counting rules are challenged.

When do the polls close: 7:30 p.m. EST

8. Arizona

Electoral Votes: 11

What did the polls say before Election Day: Biden leads Trump 49% to 46%

Who won the state in 2016: Trump defeated Clinton 48.1% to 44.6%

Why it’s important: Arizona seems like a safe Republican state; the last two Democrats to win the presidential vote in Arizona were Bill Clinton and Harry Truman. However, two demographic blocs have put the state into play: Latino voters, who lean Democratic, and Mormons, who usually vote Republican but who have been turned off by President Trump’s rhetoric and policies.

When do the polls close: 9 p.m. EST


With tens of millions of mail-in and in-person ballots to count in these states alone, we may not know all the results before the end of Election Day, but hopefully November 3 will be free of too many surprises. Ideally, we will know enough from these battleground states by the end of the night to have a good idea who will be our president for the next four years.