With a presidential race on the horizon, tens of thousands of votes from overseas and the military – usually counted in full only a few days after a safe overall result – could be crucial, especially in the state of Georgia, where former Vice President Joe Biden has just overtaken President Donald Trump.
Election officials in Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Alaska were still counting ballots early Thursday, waiting for the arrival of others, including those from U.S. troops and their families stationed outside their home districts.
The absentee ballots have been largely broken up for Biden in recent days, giving him the momentum that has brought him to the brink of the presidency, and drawing desperate, factually false allegations of electoral fraud from Trump.
But in such a close race, the final outcome of the election may well depend on pending military and overseas votes. The Trump campaign is trying to stop officials from counting postal votes, but the campaign has also said that there are “exceptions that exist and should exist” for members of overseas services.
In 2016, the troops and their families sent more than 630,000 ballots, the Washington Post reported. About 20,000 of these were rejected, mainly because they arrived after the deadline. Civilian postal votes have favored Biden, but there is speculation that military ballots might be better for Trump given his pro-military stance and nationalist rhetoric.
An August Military Times poll, however, showed support for the president’s easing in the armed forces. The annual survey found that 41.3 percent of military respondents said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, compared with 37.4 percent for Trump.
Rules vary by state, but Georgia will count military ballots stamped by election day and received by Friday, November 6.
According to the secretary of state, there were about 8,899 absentee ballots from military and overseas voters that had not yet been returned to the polling stations in Georgia on Thursday morning. Another 17,529 ballots from overseas had already been returned and counted.
It is not yet clear what proportion of these came from uniformed troops. In 2016 Georgia counted 5,203 military ballots according to the Military Times. If the race remains so close, it is possible that the 2020 lot could still decide in which direction the peach state swings.
In the other states that have not yet been called, the race is less close, at least not so close that the remaining number of foreign and military elections could be the deciding factor.
In Arizona, where Biden is in the lead with tens of thousands of votes, despite the Trump campaign’s claims that they will carry the state, the ballots must be in place by election day for them to be counted. In 2016, Arizona received approximately 5,000 votes from overseas by mail.
Biden is also slightly ahead in Nevada. The state counted 2,677 military ballots in 2016, and this year all ballots stamped by Election Day and received by November 10 will be counted.
Pennsylvania is the key to the White House in this cycle. All eyes are on the Commonwealth, where Trump gained great leadership early on, but is now on the verge of a Biden comeback, thanks to absentee ballots, which are strongly democratic.
Many of the remaining votes come from the Democratic strongholds, and Biden’s campaign is confident that it will take the state by some distance.
Therefore, the military votes there will probably not make much difference. In 2016, the state counted 7,788 military ballots. The officials will count every ballot that is signed by November 2 and received by November 10.