Useful Tools for Following the Election

source: electoral college heat map at

The U.S. Elections have captured the attention of an enormous portion of the electorate in 20202. How do I know? Because of the ballots already being tabulated at one of the most useful resources for following what’s happening: The U.S. Election Project. This site, run by University of Florida political science professor, Dr. Michael McDonald, has early-voting data from every state where early voting is in effect. As of this writing (October 21, 2020), the site indicates that 42,143,836 ballots have already been cast in the 2020 elections, with 11,900,154 of those being in-person votes, and the rest mail ballots. Meaning, as of right now, 30.6% as many people have already voted in 2020 as voted in total in 2016.

Another set of useful tools is the polling averages and forecasting provided by sites like FiveThirtyEight and Ballotpedia. The former site has a forecast based on a proprietary model (FiveThirtyEight was one of the few sites that gave Trump an appreciable chance of victory in 2016), and a rolling average of polls produced by pollsters they deem credible. Ballotpedia has a page about the Presidential election, which includes a “2020 presidential race ratings” section showing state-by-state forecasts assembled using the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball (of the UVA Center for Politics). Ballotpedia has a wealth of other information, as well, including campaign finance and spending reports, information for every congressional district and many mayoral races, and coverage of state and local ballot measures. I can’t recommend that site enough for following politics, in general. If it doesn’t have the information you want, it almost certainly has links to it.

One final tool is betting markets. Betting markets achieve better accuracy than punditry by way of forcing people to put their money where their mouth is, though the accuracy of betting markets is still inferior to that of the best statistical models. Predictit is not the most liquid or largest of the sites, but it’s the easiest to check to see what people betting money on the election think.

I compiled this brief list because people have asked me how I follow the election as it unfolds. I like to use multiple sources to form my opinion of what is happening. I don’t like to use social media for this. Algorithms, botnets, and massive partisan biases make information obtained from social media suspect. Similarly, I don’t care for mainstream media programming from the likes of MSNBC or Fox News (their legitimate polls are included in some of the above resources, anyway). I don’t need to explain the biases with which those particular outfits operate.

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