Hello all. I’m Joey Garrison, here today to talk about the upcoming 2020 presidential election and how the voting process will work on Election Day and beyond. Before USA TODAY, I previously worked at The Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn. from 2012 to 2019 and the Nashville City Paper before that.

EDIT: That's all I have time to answer questions. I hope I was helpful! Thanks for your questions. I had a blast. Keep following our coverage of the election at usatoday.com and check out this resource guide: https://www.usatoday.com/storytelling/election-2020-resource-guide/

Follow me on Twitter (@joeygarrison), feel free to email me at [email protected] and check out some of my recent bylines:

Proof: https://i.redd.it/kc3a4o79p3u51.jpg

Comments: 561 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

kneeco2892 karma

What are your thoughts on how newspaper frontpages should read the morning of November 4 in the event that no winner is declared by the time they go to print?

How do you communicate that one person is in the lead, if one is, without leaving readers with the impression that they won?

How do you report if one side declares victory if the outlet itself is not prepared to call it?

usatoday72 karma

It is the media's responsibility to report the outcomes of states as they come -- and alert the public that in some states, there could be thousands of outstanding absentee ballots that could change the preliminary numbers they are seeing.

I expect that on Nov. 4, it is very possible that newspapers won't have a clear winner for their front page. USA Today and others will have to report what we know and what still might change.

I am more open to the possibility, however, that we could have a winner either late on election night or the next day as opposed to days or weeks as I once thought. This would occur if Joe Biden wins in a landslide and takes states such as North Carolina, Florida and Arizona that will have most of its ballots counted shortly after Election Day.

The states we will be waiting on the longest are Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which do not allow election officials to begin processing ballots until Election day, and Michigan, which gets only a 10-hour head-start.

Trump would have little or even no path if Biden wins Florida and Arizona. (Again, we should know those winners by the morning of Nov. 4, unless it is extremely close.)

Conversely, Biden would still have life if Trump were to carry Florida and Arizona. The former vice president would need to carry every state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and flip Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, each won by Trump four years ago. That's why a Trump victory in Florida and Arizona would not necessarily mean a reelection victory but rather shift the focus on the counting efforts in the Midwest states.

kneeco2825 karma

Thanks! I'm going to push on this a little bit if it's ok:

What if Trump wins FL/AZ/NC and is winning marginally in the rust belt states but those are too close to call in the opinion of USToday. And he gives a victory speech while Biden says every vote should be counted.

What's the story? Does a responsible paper run a big picture of a victorious Trump and somber Biden? Does the paper run "Trump declares victory and leads, but race too close to call!" above those photos? What's the responsible lede in that scenario?

usatoday35 karma

If Trump declares victory prematurely in those three Rust Belt states -- which has long been speculated given some of the things he's said -- then it is the job of the media to report that, in fact, the outcome is still unclear and that he has not won.

We will know how many outstanding absentee ballots there are and we will also know how many ballot requests were made by political party. So, under such a scenario, we should also be able to report that the preliminary results are likely to shift toward Biden as more votes are counted.

This is a phenomenon that's already played out in recent elections called the "blue shift" in which election results skew towards Democrats as more absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

centpourcentuno31 karma

How do you feel about USA Today endorsing Biden?

In this age of everyone suspecting fake news and media bias.. don't you think this makes it even worse?

usatoday20 karma

I do wonder editorial board endorsements have the punch they once did. I also wonder whether they can make conservative voters more suspicious of the media. But I am not part of those decisions. I had no idea they were endorsing until I read their endorsement. So it doesn't affect my job.

oldfarmerwoman27 karma

Why do you think the Titans are so underrated by the national media?

usatoday30 karma

Great question! As you know, I'm a big Tennessee Titans fan ... I think the respect is coming. And it will definitely be there if we beat the Steelers on Sunday!

bucksball27 karma

What are your thoughts on the “Fake News” phenomenon? How can we restore faith in the media?

usatoday17 karma

It's unfortunate the president turned "fake news" -- originally coined after Russia spread false stories on social media during the 2016 election -- into a phrase to discredit stories he doesn't like.

As reporters, we have to prove our worth to the public for their faith to be restored.

Arguablecoyote16 karma

So I know I sound crazy here but:

Given that there has been some reports of voter intimidation and this is shaping up to be one of the most contentious elections in our history.

Do you think it is likely there will be political violence? What can we do if our polling stations become targets of violence?

usatoday11 karma

There is great concern among many about violence this election, particularly during the post-election period.

In fact, a study from the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group this year found nearly 1 out of 4 voters – 22% of Democrats and 21% of Republicans – said some amount of "violence" would be justified if the candidate they oppose wins the White House.

Hopefully violence doesn't become an issue.

jrobbins714 karma

Do you think that coronavirus is being used by the media as a scare tactic during the election ? Like do you think the news is making everything about COVID-19 worse than it is so that a specific candidate ends up being elected, I know Covid-19 is not great but I just feel like the media is being used as a way to scare people shitless about this whole situation.

usatoday22 karma

No, I don't believe so. It's a global pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. I think the media has tried to report the seriousness of the situation for the public good and to scrutinize how the federal government has handled it. It's no different than any crisis facing the nation under any president.

UnspoiledWalnut13 karma

Do you think mail in ballots create greater potential for fraud than typical in person voting?

usatoday11 karma

No I don't. And there's research that backs that up.

However, voting by mail is more susceptible to user error -- not returning a ballot in a correct envelope, or other technical mistakes. So more mail ballots get rejected than ballots cast in-person. This is different than fraud. That's a risk for Democrats and Joe Biden, who are relying on mail-voting more than the Trump campaign.

Pulp5015 karma

I know I'm late for the AMA, but I can't find an answer to why this is happening now in 2020, we've always got the results the night of the election. What's different now?

usatoday5 karma

Hey, thanks for the question. There might not be a winner on election night -- that is, Trump or Biden reaching the needed 270 electoral votes -- because of the unprecedented volume of mail ballots to count.

Two critical battlegrounds, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, don't allow the processing of ballots until Election Day. Michigan only gets a 10-hour head start. So it is possible it could drag out.

WackyJackal4 karma

Could you please give a quick run down of how the voting process works for delegates?

usatoday13 karma

Ok first question: When you vote for president, you are actually voting for a slate of electors pledged to support their party's candidate. There are 538 nationwide. Electors are apportioned to states by population. These electors are selected by state political parties, typically at party conventions. Rules vary state by state.

The US Supreme Court ruled this year that states can insist members of the Electoral College support the winner of the popular vote on Election Day.

thomas_eire3 karma

Could you speak to your impressions moving from TN to the Boston area, as a reporter? Massachusetts is often perceived as a liberal haven, despite having very conservative areas and a moribund/sclerotic political culture (example, the Alex Morse incident). What are your impressions reporting in a blue state vs. a red state?

usatoday6 karma

It was quite a change going from Tennessee, where Republicans control all facets of state government, to Massachusetts which is dominated by Democrats. Of course, the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, is a Republican, but he's arguably to the left of Tennessee's most recent Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen.

The state legislatures could of the respective states could not be more different in terms of the social policies they embrace.

devintheviper2 karma

Is there alot of pressure from other journalists or even yourself on writing non-biased stories? Do websites and news stations have some sort of interview process in which they can identify bias within a journalist?

Might be weird questions but was just curious! :) Thanks ahead of time

usatoday2 karma

I think a reporter's work speaks for itself. I think I've gained the respect of members of both parties throughout my career in journalism.

imstilldan2 karma

I Just received my general election vote ballot by mail. (LA county, CA.) I want to make sure that my ballot actually gets collected and counted. What would you say is the best way to ensure both of those things?

usatoday2 karma

First of all, read the instructions provided closely. Rules vary by state. Once you send your ballot back, you can track your ballot online. I found California's ballot tracking for you:


DivineBlackout2 karma

How are mail in ballets counted? On election night? Before election night? Is it different by state?

usatoday3 karma

Absentee ballots are counted by scanners, but a great deal of pre-work is involved to ensure validity.

Counting does not begin until Election Day but some states begin the processing days or weeks beforehand while others wait until Election Day.

Before counting absentee ballots, election officials must open the envelopes containing the ballots, match the signatures on the ballots to registration rolls and verify the bar codes on the envelopes. In some states, they have to remove a "secrecy envelope" containing the ballot from the envelope it's mailed in.

usatoday2 karma

Keep the questions coming, folks ... Happy to answer anything on your minds about voting so far and post-election.

Jimmyrustler341 karma

Without getting too political, would you say there is a media bias against progressive politicians, especially against Bernie Sanders during his two presidential runs?

usatoday5 karma

All political reporters I know, including myself, try to cover politicians fairly regardless of party or beliefs. That extends to Sen. Bernie Sanders. I do think he had to overcome the perception in the press that he was not the favorite during his 2016 primary run. However, I think he was widely seen as the favorite this past year before Joe Biden surged following his South Carolina victory and Super Tuesday performance.

bumpyboatman1 karma

Would you say the Trump administration has any actual legal footing to sue states who may not be able to finish counting votes for a week or more after November 3rd?

usatoday1 karma

The Trump campaign would certainly have legal standing to bring a lawsuit to challenge absentee ballots. But I'm not sure about the basis of a lawsuit. Many states for years have counted absentee ballots after Election Day. Although the media likes to crown a winner as early as possible, the outcome isn't final until votes are certified.

The length it takes to count votes is not a legal barrier, so long as a state picks its slate of electors by Dec. 14. That's when electors meet to provide their states' votes for president and vice president. Congress then convenes Jan. 6 to count them and declare who won.

usatoday1 karma

Hi, foks. This is Joey Garrison, national political reporter at USA TODAY. We will begin in about 10 minutes -- 2 p.m. EST. I look forward to doing my best to answer your questions. It appears we have some good ones already coming.

redisanokaycolor-1 karma

How is the USPS failing us?

usatoday15 karma

It's hard to say what effect Postal Service changes will have on the election at this juncture. So far, nearly 16 million mail ballots have been returned to elections offices -- so the postal service is doing its job for many voters. But there are also reports about slow mail times in some swing states.

The big question will be as we get closer to Election Day. Several states don't allow mail ballots to be counted that are received after Election Day even if they are postmarked by Election Day. If there is a pile up of mail ballots uncounted because of mail delays, then it could be a major problem and a point of potential litigation.