** Update (9 October 2020): Following President Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis, the second debate has been postponed/cancelled. We will update this article as we hear more about whether there will be any additional Presidential debates before the election. **
When is the US election?
All 50 states and Washington DC will head to the polls on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. Citizens will be voting across six different timezones, with final results historically being announced around 11:00pm-12:00am EST (4:00am-5:00am GMT on Wednesday 4 November 2020). However, the share of mail-in votes is likely to exceed the historical average of 20-25% of all ballots given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so there is a risk that the result is not made official until later in the week (or even later in the month!).
What are the key dates to watch before the election?
Ahead of the election, there are several key debates that may have a big impact on the polls:
- 29 September: First presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
- 7 October: Vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- 15 October: Second presidential debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida.
- 22 October: Third presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
What are the key dates to watch after the election?
Unlike in previous years, the result may not be clear on Election night – instead, we may be looking at more of an election week or election month before the result is confirmed. Accordingly, the procedural dates after election night may be relevant:
- 14 December: Members of the Electoral College will cast their official ballots for president. Under the U.S. system, the winner of each state's popular vote earns that state's electoral votes, which are apportioned by population. The candidate who receives a majority of the 538 electoral votes available, or 270, wins the presidency.
- 6 January 2021: Congress will meet at 1:00pm in Washington to count the electoral votes and declare a winner.
- 20 January 2021: Inauguration Day. The winner and his running mate will be sworn in as president and vice president at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
What will that mean for markets?
In a year full of unprecedented events, the 2020 presidential election will undoubtedly be another event that looks different than in the past. Traders expecting a clear winner by midnight EST will likely be in for disappointment; according to a recent Axios/Ipsos poll, only about a third (36%) of US adults expect a winner to be announced on election night, with an addition quarter (24%) expecting a formal result within the next day or two. Fully 25% of survey respondents expect the outcome to be unclear for more than a week after election day!
Nonetheless, traders will still try to handicap which candidate is most likely to win based on the outcome of “election night.” While the US stock market will remain closed overnight, index futures, international stocks, commodities markets, and the foreign exchange market will all be open to present trading opportunities.
Be sure to tune in for our full election week coverage, including our constantly-updating live blog on election night for instant analysis of how the results are impacting the markets you’re trading!