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

Chris Sholberg, City of Nanaimo culture and heritage planner, left, presents a first-place award to Kevin Brandt for his restoration of his home’s exterior to its original state. Brandt is the first recipient of the Heritage House Renovation Awards, created by Nanaimo Community Archives to recognize renovation projects taken on in 2020 during the pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo hands out its first heritage house renovation award

Awards created to recognize heritage renovation projects taken on during the pandemic

A rendering of the Lumina building proposed for 41-45 Haliburton St. in Nanaimo. (Matthew T. Hansen Architect image)
Next project proposed as part of a series of buildings on Nanaimo’s Haliburton Street

Five-storey building near Finlayson Street will include 38 residential units

Auto thief in black balaclava trying to break into car with screwdriver. (Pixabay photo)
Island hikers and park users warned to keep valuables in vehicles out of sight

Spring weather draws more hikers out to rural parking lots, where thieves are at work

Capt. Bryun Ashlie, left, and Lieut. Stu Kenning, of Nanaimo Fire Rescue, tackle fires burning in two shopping carts in St. George Ravine Park, Thursday afternoon. The cause of the fire, which destroyed both carts and their contents, is undetermined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Shopping carts found burning in Nanaimo park

Firefighters douse flaming carts and contents on asphalt pathway

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a motorcyclist who refused to stop for police near the Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road intersection on April 10. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP seek ‘stunting’ motorcyclist, who fled from police

Rider spotted near intersection of Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road April 10

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Vancouver Islanders warned of fire risk caused by dry conditions

As dry spell poised to end, officials warn of risks involved with backyard burning

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
UPDATED: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

Most Read