Mail-In Ballots Could Delay Election Results

Mail-In Ballots Could Delay Election Results

( – Americans are accustomed to knowing who the next President of the United States will be on the morning after the election. Unfortunately, COVID-19 wreaked havoc not just on the country but also on the electoral process. This year is no ordinary presidential voting year, and it’s possible the country won’t know the winner of the presidential election for days.

To protect vulnerable Americans who chose to vote this year, several states changed or amended their laws to allow voters to vote by mail. This year, a study by the University of Florida said 99 million Americans cast a ballot before Election Day by either mailing-in their vote, dropping it off at a ballot box or election office, or voting in person.

Early Voting Numbers

Many election experts predicted that early voting would be extraordinarily high, and they were right. According to the previously cited study by the University of Florida:

  • Democrats returned 70.6% of the mail-in ballots they requested, resulting in nearly 17.7 million ballots
  • Republicans returned 66.5% of the mail-in ballots they requested, resulting in 9.9 million ballots
  • Independents returned 54.5% of the mail-in ballots they requested, resulting in nearly 9 million ballots

This extraordinarily high number of mail-in votes could cause serious delays in the final vote count.

What Could Cause Delays?

While the process is good for voters, it does create challenges for election officials, especially in battleground states where early voting was unusually high. Because of the sheer number of ballots to open, sort, and process, the time to count these votes will take much longer than in-person votes, which can be counted almost instantaneously.

Complicating matters, many of the supposed “blue wall” states that elected Donald Trump in 2016 had laws that prevented election officials from preparing the count of mail-in votes until election day. That could mean official results will not be available in the highly important and contested state of Pennsylvania right away. If the election comes down to Pennsylvania, as some election experts expect, Americans may not know who the next president will be until as late as Friday, November 6.

However, if it doesn’t come down to Pennsylvania, we may know much sooner. In Ohio, ballots postmarked on November 2 or earlier can be received up to 10 days after the election. The state has until November 28 to certify its results. However, it’s unlikely the state will take that long. The majority of votes should be received in time to predict the winner within a few days.

In the battleground state of North Carolina, state law allowed election officials to open envelopes and verify signatures before election day. The Wall Street Journal reported that 97% or more of all ballots cast should be reported on election night.

When Could America Know Who the Next President Will Be?

Donald Trump or Joe Biden will need to reach 270 in the Electoral College to win. While it is possible that a combination of states could be known by Wednesday night, Americans likely won’t know who the next president will be on Wednesday morning.

However, it will be Friday at the earliest if the nation is waiting on Pennsylvania. That’s assuming everything goes right and there are no problems. Some scenarios suggest it could take weeks, especially if lawsuits are filed, and the legal process needs to take its course.

The bottom line is that 2020 is a unique year, and anything can happen. In fact, you probably should expect it will.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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