LOCAL NEWS

Counting The Vote: Will We Know Who Won On Election Night?

Oct 27, 2020, 8:58 AM

FILE (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)...

FILE (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Millions of Americans have already voted, but each state has different rules on when it’s allowed to actually start counting those ballots. That is going to produce results coming in at very different times — perhaps days or even weeks after Election Day.

In some places, election officials can begin processing ballots weeks before Election Day. That means workers can start verifying voter information while also removing ballots from their envelopes to physically get them ready for tabulation. Doing so readies ballots for counting on Election Day and will speed up the release of results.

But it’s not that simple.

In some of the most critical battleground states, laws prevent the early processing of ballots. So on Nov. 3, Election Day, officials will have to run an in-person election while also working through the unprecedented number of mail-in votes. This dynamic is likely to delay results and heighten the potential for big shifts if in-person vote tallies are upended by the counting of mail-in ballots.

While results might come in later than usual this year, that’s because of a change in how people are voting, not malfeasance or fraud.

Here is another wrinkle: Nationwide delivery delays at the U.S. Postal Service are sparking fears that ballots might not arrive in time to be counted. Republicans, including Trump’s campaign, have been filing lawsuits to stop election officials from counting ballots that are delivered after Election Day.

For example: As of right now in Pennsylvania, votes that arrive by mail three days after Nov. 3 will be counted, after an intense legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. Republicans have filed another suit against the extension. Also, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow early processing of mail-in ballots, further complicating matters.

In Michigan, another hotly contested state, an appeals court has struck down a 14-day ballot-counting extension, leading the state’s top election official to urge voters to drop off their ballots in person rather than use the Postal Service. Courts have also nixed similar extensions in Wisconsin and Indiana.

States where advanced votes can be counted prior to Election Day

Arizona
Colorado
Delaware
Hawaii
Iowa
Massachusetts
Maryland
Montana
New Jersey
Nevada
Utah
Rhode Island

States where advanced votes can be counted on Election Day before the polls close

Arkansas
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
California
Kentucky
Indiana
Louisiana
Michigan
Missouri
New Mexico
Oklahoma
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oregon
South Carolina
Tennessee
Virginia
Wyoming

States where advanced votes are counted on Election Day after votes polls have closed

Alabama
Alaska
Washington, D.C.
Illinois
Kansas
Minnesota
Maine
New Hampshire
Mississippi
Pennsylvania
South Dakota
Vermont
Washington
West Virginia

States where advanced votes are counted after Election Day

New York

States where advanced vote counting varies by district

Connecticut
Nebraska
Texas
Wisconsin

Mail-in ballots must be received by or on Nov. 3 in these states in order to be counted

Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Indiana
Louisiana
Maine
Michigan
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Oklahoma
Oregon
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Vermont
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Mail-in ballots may be received after Nov. 3 and still be counted in these states 

Alaska
California
Washington, D.C.
Iowa
Illinois
Kansas
Kentucky
Massachusetts
Maryland
Minnesota
Mississippi
North Carolina
North Dakota
New Jersey
Nevada
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia

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Counting The Vote: Will We Know Who Won On Election Night?