The Spin: Election Day — races to watch, waiting | Trump in Kenosha wonders aloud: Who will win? | How the Tribune is working to avoid ‘Dewey defeats Truman’ repeat

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Like so many in the voting public today, President Donald Trump wondered aloud at a campaign rally in Kenosha last night — albeit with a bit of sarcasm — about the outcome of the presidential race between him and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden.

With a pandemic that’s claimed 230,000 lives in the U.S., cost countless jobs and altered life as we know it, voters who had not cast their ballots ahead of time went to the polls on this, the official Election Day. For the procrastinators out there, polls for in-person voting in Illinois close at 7 p.m.

While some pundits suggest we may have a sense of which presidential candidate is on the road to victory, others are saying record-breaking vote-by-mail numbers along with varied cutoff dates to get those in could mean it might take days for a front-runner to emerge. If court challenges ensue, that would just extend the time.

Similarly, extended vote-by-mail deadlines in Illinois mean it could take a week before we know the results of the Gov. J.B. Pritzker-backed referendum atop the Illinois ballot that asks voters whether the state should change its constitution to replace the flat income tax to a graduated tax.

While Trump vs. Biden is the big show, also at stake is which party will lead the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate — coequal branches of government. Polling shows Democrats are expected to hold onto the House, but polls and pundits are at odds about whether Republicans will maintain control of the Senate.

At least one of Illinois' 18 congressional races this year is a nail-biter and could help cement or change the contours of the chamber. Likewise, four-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, of Springfield, is a favorite to win, but he’s facing his first serious challenge in years.

So grab that leftover Halloween candy, put on a fresh pot of coffee and get ready for what lies ahead.

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Trump offers snapshot of election anxiety in America

At one point during a campaign rally last night in Kenosha, President Trump wondered out loud whether he could lose, the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart reports.

“Could he really win?” Trump said of Biden. “Are we serious about this?”

“No!” the crowd of faithful shouted back.

Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 but with polling showing Biden with a narrow lead there and in other battleground states, it’s among the races to watch. Read the full story here.

Final polling averages show uphill battle for Trump: Track the race for president in the key battleground states: The Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart, Chad Yoder and Jonathon Berlin have the details here.

Big picture — 10 pivotal states in the presidential race to watch on election night: The Associated Press has the details here.

What’s 270? The math game behind the presidential election and the Electoral College: Read The Associated Press story here. This fun little New York Times online tool can help too.

Mayor Lightfoot gets testy with activist at polling place

From the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt: Mayor Lori Lightfoot mixed it up with an activist outside a Far North Side polling place over controversial Judge Michael Toomin, accusing the woman of having her facts wrong and tossing in a shot at the Chicago Teachers Union.

Toomin’s re-election is opposed by the Cook County Democratic Party and its chair, Toni Preckwinkle. Party leaders are critical of Toomin’s stances on juvenile justice, though some suspect they’re trying to remove him as payback for appointing a special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett scandal, which harmed Preckwinkle ally Kim Foxx in her re-election bid as state’s attorney.

In a video posted on Twitter by teachers union activist Mary Difino, Lightfoot approaches Difino after she criticizes Toomin.

“I’m happy to endorse Judge Toomin because he’s a good judge,” Lightfoot says.

Lightfoot then repeatedly steps toward Difino and says, “You’ve got your facts wrong, you’ve got your facts wrong, you’ve got them wrong.” Two members of Lightfoot’s security detail then step between Lightfoot and the activist as the mayor jabs her finger toward Difino and adds, “Your teachers union is wrong about that.”

A lot of Election Night traditions, like the boozy parties at a nondescript hotel conference room, have gone the way of Zoom in the age of COVID-19.

What Trump and Biden are up to once the polls close: Trump will entertain supporters at the White House tonight as results come in while Biden will be at his home in Delaware, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Both were expected to make public remarks at some point tonight: Reporters who caught up with President Trump at his Virginia election headquarters today asked him about another tradition: delivering an acceptance or concession speech. He said he hasn’t worked on either.

“I’m not thinking about concession speech or acceptance speech yet,” he said, adding, “Winning is easy. Losing is never easy – not for me it’s not.”

Closer to home, Mayor Lightfoot, who criss-crossed the city to meet up with Democratic candidates and thank poll workers, plans to watch election results from her Chicago home, a spokesman said. Gov. Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference this afternoon that he, too, would be watching the results at home and encouraged others to do the same.

Races to watch

The most expensive state contest on this year’s ballot: A proposed state constitutional amendment asking voters to end the state’s mandated flat-rate income tax system and replace it with a graduated-rate structure that increases the tax levy along with income.

Under the rules of the state constitution, ratification of the amendment requires the support from either at least 60% of those voting on the question or from at least 50% of the total ballots cast in the election. More on that below.

Election Day also figures to feature some close local races. Two years ago in central Illinois' 13th Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville won reelection by 2,058 votes out of nearly 271,000 ballots cast over Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigran of Springfield. And this year, Davis and Londrigan are in a rematch.

14th District congressional race features first-term incumbent Lauren Underwood vs. state Sen. Jim Oberweis: Underwood, a Naperville Democrat, flipped what had been a reliably Republican seat in the 2018 midterms. Now Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican, is trying to reclaim the seat in one of the most closely watched races by party leaders on both sides of the aisle. The race reflects a larger trend of conservative suburbs tilting left. Read more here.

6th District congressional race pits rookie Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Casten against former Republican state lawmaker Jeannie Ives: Like Underwood, Casten, of Downers Grove, flipped a GOP seat in the 2018 blue wave. Now he’s up against Ives, of Wheaton, who nearly defeated then-Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Republican primary for governor when she ran to his right. More about the race here.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s race is among the most bitter in recent memory: First-term incumbent Kim Foxx is facing Republican challenger Pat O’Brien in a high-profile contest that has focused on the incumbent’s handling of the high-profile Jussie Smollett case and O’Brien’s role in a wrongful conviction case he worked on when he was in the prosecutor’s office decades ago. More on that race here.

U.S. Senate race pits incumbent Dick Durbin vs. four opponents in Illinois U.S. Senate race: Durbin’s challengers include Republican Mark Curran, the former Lake County sheriff; businessman and third-party candidate Willie Wilson; Danny Malouf; and David Black.

The key House races to watch across the United States tonight, via CBS News and National Public Radio.

What to watch for in the battle for the Senate: The Washington Post breaks it down here.

Reminder: Why results may be delayed

From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: Each state sets its own election laws, including how and when to count its mail-in and early ballots. In some critical battleground states in the race between Trump and Biden, it could even take weeks before ballot results are known.

In deeply blue Illinois, expectations are for a quick result in the presidential race — the Democratic candidates have taken the state by 17 percentage points in the previous two elections. Illinois also processes its mail-in and early-voting ballots as they are received through Nov. 1, stopping short only of hitting the total button, which is done when the polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day.

However, it could still take a while to know winners in close cases; Illinois allows ballots that are postmarked no later than Election Day to arrive and be counted for two weeks afterward, so totals could change through Nov. 17.

Data points on voting: With record-setting vote-by-mail numbers in the 2020 general election, the Illinois State Board of Elections reminds that unofficial vote totals reported on election night may change significantly in the two weeks to follow.

The count: 1.83 million in-person early votes had been cast as of yesterday. Additionally, 1.76 mail-in ballots had been returned for a grand total of 3.6 million votes cast, according to the state election data.

In 2016, Illinois voters cast 370,740 votes by mail and 1.5 million in-person early votes.

Another record: Illinois has, so far, logged 8.3 million registered voters for the 2020 general election, an all-time hight according to the state election board. Unofficial pre-election reports indicate that 43 percent of registered voters have already voted.

Chicago turnout could hit 75%: Read about that and other Election Day stories from the Tribune team here.

Announcing the results: Avoiding another ‘DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN’ blunder at the Chicago Tribune

The Tribune’s editor-in-chief Colin McMahon writes: "At the Tribune, we compile our electoral results using The Associated Press for larger races and local or county official sites for smaller races. AP and the major television networks are taking extra precautions this year to account for the unprecedented manner in which so many people are voting, and the state-by-state differences in tabulations.

"We will follow the lead of the AP, as we normally do. We will update stories and results on our Elections 2020 webpage every few minutes. We will print election results tables in the newspaper for as many days as it takes to capture the outcomes. And, of course, we will check the “winner” box in races that have a clear outcome.

"But the Tribune will also do our best to inform you about the vote-counting process, not just the vote totals. We will report on and share responsible reporting on voting or counting irregularities. We will not call races independently, and in some cases we may refrain from reporting a winner even when one candidate claims victory or another concedes defeat.

“The Chicago Tribune as an institution remains cognizant of its famous ‘DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN' blunder, even if none of the editors making the calls today were even alive back in 1948. We are a careful bunch in calling races generally, and we will be especially so this year.”

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan

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