A roll of "I VOTED" stickers sit on a shelf as residents participate in early voting Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, at a county courthouse in Maywood, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

EXPLAINER: A long night, or more, before U.S. president is known

Mail ballots generally require more time to process than ballots that are cast in person

There’s a fair chance Americans won’t know the winner of Tuesday’s presidential election while it’s still Tuesday — or maybe even Wednesday.

The main reason? Many states have made it easier to request a mail ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about crowded polling places. But mail ballots generally require more time to process than ballots that are cast in person.

Different states, different approaches

Some states with extensive experience in using mail-in ballots have adjusted for those extra steps.

In Florida, clerks can start counting ballots 22 days before an election. In North Carolina, beginning five weeks before the election, county boards insert approved ballots into a voting machine, allowing for a prompt tabulation on Election Day.

But other states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all with Republican-led legislatures and all of them swing states, made a conscious decision to wait. There will be no counting of mail-in ballots prior to Election Day, As a result, it could take days to tally enough ballots to project a winner.

The wrangling in the states over the use of mail-in ballots has come as President Donald Trump claims that mail voting is ripe for fraud.

Election Day isn’t always the deadline

And here’s another wrinkle that could delay the naming of a winner: In some key states, mail-in ballots can come in several days after Election Day and still be counted, as long as they are postmarked by then. Democrats have argued that the flood of absentee ballots and slow mail delivery in some areas makes such a precaution necessary.

For example, mail-in ballots from Nevada voters are not due until Nov. 10 if postmarked by Election Day. In North Carolina, mail-in ballots were not due until Nov. 12 if postmarked by Election Day.

There will be legal challenges

Polling indicates that a majority of Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while more than half of Joe Biden’s backers had planned to vote by mail. Expect the Trump campaign’s legal team to challenge the validity of many mail-in ballots cast in critical battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“We will have a sizable contingent of lawyers who will be ready to fend off any of the shenanigans that Democrats are trying,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, told reporters.

Some early signs?

While it’s unlikely the election outcome will be known Tuesday night, results from two states could signal which way it’s headed.

Both Florida and Georgia allow election officials to begin processing ballots weeks before Election Day, allowing the count to go much more quickly. The timeline for calling races in the two states probably won’t be much different than what voters have experienced in the past, unless the races are simply too close to call. If Biden wins either state, the prospects of a Trump victory are severely damaged. Same goes for North Carolina.

Kevin Freking, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Donald TrumpJoe BidenU.S. election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of March 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Chris Squires of The Wack Window Cleaning Company has created the #100housechallenge where he’ll be cleaning the exterior windows of 100 homes for free when an interior window cleaning service is purchased and a food item is donated to Wilma’s Transition Society. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack window cleaner ready to donate to Wilma’s through #100housechallenge campaign

Chris Squires enjoys providing service, wants to express it via donations, giving back to community

A cyclist was struck at the intersection of Prest and Bailey roads in Chilliwack on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Cyclist struck by SUV in Chilliwack

Incident happened at Prest and Bailey roads around 2:45 p.m. Saturday

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read