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Ahead of the presidential election, America’s sports stadiums and arenas become polling centers

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Ever stepped inside a ballpark or football stadium and marveled at how many people can fit inside?

Now those spaces are going to be put to another good use, with many arenas and stadiums across professional sports slated to be turned into polling centers on and before Election Day on Nov. 3.

In the 2016 election, according to Pew Research Center, just 55% of eligible Americans voted — could the intersection of sports and politics lead to more voter turnout, even during the coronavirus pandemic?

“The potential for this kind of creativity is very high. People already trust brands like sports teams — they have identity connections with them. That makes them trusted messengers in a way,” Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, told ESPN.

Further, Metzl noted that stadiums are safer than traditional polling places right now, “because you can social distance, there’s good airflow, you’re not crammed in there. And so, from a public health perspective, stadiums are also potentially much safer.”

Also, stadiums and arenas are usually close to public transportation systems, making it easier for voters to get to the location, Metzl added.

Here are the arenas and stadiums across professional sports being turned into polling and voting centers:

NFL

Atlanta Falcons

  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 1 AMB Dr. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313.

  • Capacity: 71,000.

  • Details: Unknown.

Carolina Panthers

  • Bank of America Stadium, 800 S Mint St., Charlotte, NC 28202.

  • Capacity: 75,412.

  • Details: From Oct. 15-31, Mecklenburg County voters can cast their ballots ahead of Election Day at the stadium.

Detroit Lions

  • Ford Field, 2000 Brush St., Detroit, MI 48226.

  • Details: Ford Field will not be a place to cast ballots, but rather to check them. The building will host 8 of 12 of Detroit’s receiving boards, which ensure integrity of results and ballots from precincts.

Green Bay Packers

  • Lambeau Field, 1265 Lombardi Ave., Green Bay, WI 54304.

  • Details: Johnsonville Tailgate Village — a 13,432 square foot building on site — will be a polling location on Nov. 3.

Houston Texans

  • NRG Park (NRG Stadium and NRG Arena).

  • Details: NRG Park has been designated as the election headquarters for the Harris County Clerk’s Office and for the 2020 presidential election. Early in-person voting will be held Oct. 13-30 in Hall D at NRG Arena. Drive-thru early voting will be held Oct.13-30 in NRG Park’s Blue Lot 16. On Nov. 3, in-person voting will be held at NRG Arena (Capacity: 8,000) and drive-thru voting will be in NRG Park’s Blue Lot 16.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Lucas Oil Stadium, 500 S Capitol Ave., Indianapolis, IN, 46225.

  • Capacity: 70,000.

  • Details: Vote in-person on Nov. 3 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • Arrowhead Stadium, 1 Arrowhead Dr., Kansas City, MO 64129.

  • Capacity: 76,416.

  • Details: Arrowhead will serve as Election Day polling place for people who live within the city limits of Kansas City in Jackson County.

Los Angeles Chargers and Rams

  • SoFi Stadium, 1000 S Prairie Ave., Inglewood, CA 90301.

  • Details: A voting center outside the stadium will open Oct. 30.

Seattle Seahawks

  • CenturyLink Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98134.

  • Capacity: 72,000.

  • Details: Was open for the August primary as a voting center for ballot drop-off, a way to get a replacement ballot or to register to vote. CenturyLink will be open on Nov. 3 for day-of voting.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33607.

  • Capacity: 65,890.

  • Details: An early voting site, from Oct. 19-Nov. 1.

Washington Football Team

  • FedEx Field, 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, MD 20785.

  • Details: Any registered Prince George’s County voter can go on Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to vote at the third-floor club level of the stadium.

NBA

Atlanta Hawks

  • State Farm Arena, 1 State Farm Dr., Atlanta, GA 30303.

  • Capacity: 21,000.

  • Details: The arena will open Oct. 12 in advance of Election Day, and a portion of the building also will be set aside for counting mail-in-ballots. It is the largest voting location in the state’s history.

Brooklyn Nets

  • Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217.

  • Capacity: 19,000.

  • Details: Barclays Center will serve as a polling site for both early voting from Oct. 24-Nov. 1 and on Nov. 3. Barclays Center will be the largest voting space in Brooklyn.

Charlotte Hornets

  • Spectrum Center, 333 E Trade St., Charlotte, NC 28202.

  • Capacity: 20,200.

  • Details: Spectrum Center will host early voting from Oct. 15-31.

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, 1, Center Court, Cleveland, OH 44115.

  • Capacity: 20,562.

  • Details: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse will serve as a polling location on Nov. 3. Only registered voters residing in precincts I, L and Q in Cleveland’s Ward 3 will be able to cast their in-person ballot at the FieldHouse.

Dallas Mavericks

  • American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave., Dallas, TX 75219.

  • Capacity: 20,000.

  • Details: American Airlines Center will serve as the largest polling place in Dallas county for early voting from Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Comerica Center, 2601 Avenue of the Stars, Frisco, TX 75034. Capacity: 7,000. Details: The Comerica Center, home of the G League team the Texas Legends, will be a polling site for Collin County on Nov. 3.

Detroit Pistons

  • Henry Ford Performance Center, 690 Amsterdam St., Detroit, MI 48202.

  • Capacity: 54,000-square-feet.

  • Details: The training facility will allow people to register and vote on-site on Nov. 3.

Golden State Warriors

  • Kaiser Permanente Arena, 140 Front St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

  • Oakland Facility, 1011 Broadway, Oakland CA 94607.

  • Chase Center, 1 Warriors Way, San Francisco, CA 9415.

  • Details:: The team’s Oakland Facility and Kaiser Permanente Arena will both serve as polling sites and ballot drop-off locations Nov. 3. Thrive City, the outdoor area outside of Chase Center, will serve as a ballot drop-off location for San Francisco County voters from Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Houston Rockets

  • Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St., Houston, TX 77002.

  • Capacity: 18,300.

  • Details: Toyota Center will be open to any registered voter in Harris County from Oct. 13-30 and on Nov. 3.

Indiana Pacers

Los Angeles Clippers

  • The Forum, 3900 W Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90305.

  • Capacity: 17,505.

  • Details: Voters will be able to vote in person or drop off mail-in ballots at The Forum (which Clippers owner Steve Ballmer bought in March) from Oct. 24-Nov. 3.

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Staples Center, 1111 S Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90015.

  • Capacity: 20,000.

  • Details: L.A. County residents can vote in person Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Staples Center will also act as a vote by mail drop box location.

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Fiserv Forum, 1111 Vel R. Phillips Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53203.

  • Capacity: 17,341.

  • Details: Voters can cast in-ballot ballots Oct. 20-Nov. 1.

New York Knicks

  • Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001.

  • Capacity: 20,789.

  • Details: Madison Square Garden will serve over 60,000 eligible voters, making it the largest polling site in New York City. Manhattan voters who are assigned to Madison Square Garden can vote early from Oct. 24-Nov. 1, and voting booths will be located at Madison Square Garden’s Chase Square. Voters can also vote on Nov. 3.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Chesapeake Arena, 100 W Reno Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73102.

  • Capacity: 18,203.

  • Details: The Thunder will hold voter registration drives inside Chesapeake Energy Arena every Saturday from Sept.12-Oct. 4 until the Oct. 9 deadline to register to vote in the general election.

Orlando Magic

  • Amway Center, 400 W Church St #200, Orlando, FL 32801.

  • Capacity: 20,000.

  • Details: Orange County registered voters will be able to vote early from Oct. 19-Nov. 1 inside the Disney Atrium.

Phoenix Suns

  • Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 1826 W McDowell Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85007.

  • Capacity: 14,870.

  • Details: Vote in-person on Nov. 3 or drop off your ballot early.

Sacramento Kings

  • Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento, CA 95814.

  • Capacity: 17,608.

  • Details: From Oct. 24-Nov. 3., any Sacramento County resident can drop off a completed ballot, get a new ballot printed to take home, vote in person, register to vote, update voter registration, receive language assistance or use an accessible ballot marking device to vote.

San Antonio Spurs

  • AT&T Center, 1 AT&T Center Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78219.

  • Capacity: 18,581.

  • Details: Residents can vote in person early from Oct. 13-30 and on Nov. 3.

Utah Jazz

  • Vivint Arena, 301 S Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101.

  • Details: Voters can vote on Nov. 3 in-person instead of mailing in their ballot.

Washington Wizards

  • Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20004.

  • Capacity: 20,356.

  • Details: The arena offers D.C. voters the opportunity to register, cast their ballot or drop-off mail-in ballots both early, and on Election Day.

MLB

Baltimore Orioles

  • Camden Yards, 333 W Camden St., Baltimore, MD 21201.

  • Details: Camden Yards voting will be held inside Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant, according to the city election board.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Dodger Stadium, 1000 Vin Scully Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

  • Capacity: 56,000.

  • Details: For the five days leading up to the Nov. 3 election, all registered voters in Los Angeles County will be able to park for free and vote at the stadium.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Miller Park, 1 Brewers Way, Milwaukee, WI 53214.

  • Details: City of Milwaukee residents can drive through and vote early Oct. 20-Nov. 1.

Washington Nationals

  • Nationals Park, 1500 S Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC 20003.

  • Capacity: 41,313.

  • Details: D.C. residents can vote from Oct. 27-Nov. 3 for the upcoming general election at the park.

NHL

Los Angeles Kings

  • Staples Center, 1111 S Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90015.

  • Capacity: 20,000.

  • Details: L.A. County residents can vote in person Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Staples Center will also be a vote-by-mail drop-box location.

New Jersey Devils

  • Prudential Center, 25 Lafayette St., Newark, NJ 07102.

  • Capacity: 19,500.

  • Details: The week leading up to the Nov 3., Prudential Center will serve as a satellite office of the Essex County Clerk. Residents who want to drop off their ballot or want to vote in-person can do so on Election Day as well.

New York Rangers

  • Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001.

  • Capacity: 20,789.

  • Details: Madison Square Garden will serve more than 60,000 eligible voters, making it the largest polling site in New York City. Manhattan voters who are assigned to Madison Square Garden can vote early from Oct. 24-Nov. 1, and voting booths will be located at Madison Square Garden’s Chase Square. Voters can also vote on Nov. 3.

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Dr., Tampa, FL 33602.

  • Capacity: 20,500.

  • Details: Hillsborough County voters can partake in early voting from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. During that time, the elections office will also set up curbside tents outside each site for voters who want to drop off their mail ballot.

Washington Capitals

  • Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW, Washington, DC 20004.

  • Capacity: 20,356.

  • Details: The arena offers D.C. voters the opportunity to register, cast their ballot or drop off mail-in ballots both early and on Election Day.

MLS

Los Angeles FC

  • Banc of California Stadium, 3939 S Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90037.

  • Capacity: 22,000.

  • Details: L.A. County residents can vote in-person or drop off mail-in ballots at the venue. Further, L.A. County will also conduct additional election support operations at the stadium.

Seattle Sounders

  • CenturyLink Field.

  • Details: Was open for the August primary as a voting center for ballot drop-off, a way to get a replacement ballot or to register to vote. CenturyLink will be open on Nov. 3 for voting.

WNBA

  • The Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury all share arenas with their NBA counterparts that are serving as polling centers. The Dallas Wings are part of the initiative launched by the Dallas Mavericks, though they don’t play at American Airlines Center. After a push from players, the Washington Mystics’ home at Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C. will be a voting center on Election Day. Like Capital One Arena and Nationals Park, will be open from Oct. 27-Nov. 2 for early voting and again for in-person voting on Nov. 3.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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