Changing demographics and younger, more educated voters could upset the traditional balance of power, with the winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election decided by a narrow margin.

The 2020 presidential election will likely be decided by a few states. If this year’s election is anything like 2016, a small margin of votes in those crucial states could very well determine who will become the next American President. 

With the election less than a week away, President Donald Trump and Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, are both focusing on key states in a last-minute effort to cement voter support.

The victor of this US election will likely be decided throughout eleven ‘battleground’ states.

In the US, it is not the candidate who wins the highest number of votes who becomes president. Instead, the electoral college has the casting vote, meaning the candidate who wins the most number of states is elected. 

Each state has a specific number of ‘electoral votes’, calculated by the number of each state’s representatives, plus its two senators.

A candidate who wins 270 or more of a total of 538 electoral votes, wins the presidency. In an additional twist, all but two US states are ‘winner-take-all’, meaning whoever wins the state wins all of its electoral votes.

In the 2016 elections, Republican candidate Donald Trump won 304 electoral votes, while Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton won 227. Trump’s victory was largely because he was able to win by small margins in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, which had been previously held by Democrats. 

Republicans and Democrats are expecting tight calls in the three states that ensured Trump his win in 2016, and are preparing for post-election legal battles where absentee and mail-in ballots have already resulted in legal cases.  

Here are the 11 states that will decide the US 2020 elections.

Florida: 29 electoral votes.

From 1992 to 2016, the vote margin difference has not been more than 18,000 votes, out of a total of 50 million ballots cast in the same time period. The sunny southeastern state is always split down the middle, and will play a big role in Trump’s reelection campaign. Biden already enjoys a near guaranteed 226 electoral votes from states considered Democratic. Trump starts with a likely 126 confirmed electoral votes, meaning he cannot afford to lose states as much as Biden can.

Georgia: 16 electoral votes.

This southern bible-belt state has traditionally been dominated by Republicans, but with recent unrest over Black Lives Matter and a higher voter turnout, it becomes more uncertain. Polls show a tight margin between Trump and Biden so far. Election results could take a few days as mailed ballots are checked and counted. 

North Carolina: 15 electoral votes.

In the last 50 years, this state has only supported two Democrats: southerner Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Barack Obama in 2008. But with changing demographics, younger and more college-educated voters - things could turn out differently. Biden will need to appeal to younger voters to win over rural-residing and traditionally Republican voters here. 

Pennsylvania: 20 electoral votes.

This keystone state, known for being home to where the US constitution, declaration of independence, and Gettysburg address were written, voted for Trump in 2016. That was the first time it had voted for a Republican candidate since 1988, but it remains to be seen whether that trend will hold. 

Trump is likely to aim at engaging more rural voters. Meanwhile, Biden has a significant hurdle to overcome, and will have to win large margins to overcome the newly established Republican presence there.

Ohio: 18 electoral votes.

The Ohio vote is a crucial one, seen as a reflection of the average American voter. Since 1896, Ohio’s victor has also been the winning candidate - except on two occasions. Trump won in Ohio in 2016 by a significant 8 percent majority, setting a record victory margin for Republicans. 

For Democrats to win, they’ll need to do better than Hillary Clinton in 2016 at engaging rural voters, maximising voter turnout and at targeting Black and urban voters. 

Michigan: 16 electoral votes.

Michigan saw a tight call in 2016, when Trump won by 0.22 per cent, or 11,000 votes: the narrowest margin in the entire election. The state is split along partisan lines, and it's unclear who has the upper hand so far.

Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes.

Trump won this state in 2016, though Democrats claim it was due to low voter turnout among Black Voters. A liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, believes Biden has reversed the declining Black vote trend this time. 

In 2016, the win went to Trump after a small 23,000 vote margin out of the nearly 3 million votes that were cast. In October 2020, the US Supreme court allowed mail-in ballots to be used in Wisconsin for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Iowa: 6 electoral votes.

Traditionally not a pivot state. Trump won it by 9.4 percent in 2016 and recent polling shows that this year’s vote could be close.

Texas: 38 electoral votes. 

This southern bible-belt state has traditionally been home to Republican victories, and will likely go with Trump this year. That’s not to say it will be easy. Polls show a very close race between the two contending presidential candidates. 

RealClearPolitics polling average shows Trump with a small advantage of 48 to 45.7 percent over Biden. In 2016, Trump won by a 9 percent margin against Clinton. A Republican legal challenge against 120,000 drive-through early-votes in Texas was rejected by the US Supreme Court on Sunday, November 2 2020.

Arizona: 11 electoral votes.

With a rising number of liberal voters and a more politically active Latino demographic, Democrats are pinning hopes on this sunny state turning their way. The race will centre around one county, which encompasses nearly half of Arizona’s residents. Latinos make up nearly one third of the entire county’s demographic. 

Nevada: 6 electoral votes.

In 2017, Nevada supported Hillary Clinton by a small margin over Trump. Recent polling shows Biden is ahead of Trump in this state. Nevada has the United States’ highest unemployment rate at 12.6 percent. Like Arizona, one county, home to Las Vegas, will make up more than two-thirds of the state’s entire vote. In 2016, nearly one in five voters was Latino.