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When will we actually know the results of the election?

Irene Rotondo

Every four years, Americans are accustomed to waking up on the first Wednesday of November to the results of the previous night’s presidential election.

Whether a joyous or heartbreaking occasion, it’s become an absolute tradition to find out the results of the election the day after it happens.

This year’s election is already unlike any other for a multitude of reasons — the pandemic is still happening, and the two candidates Americans are presented with have both been met with a general disdain from the people.

Now, Americans can’t even be sure that they’ll know the results of this year’s 2020 election by Nov. 4 at all.

But is that really such a bad thing?

According to the official presidential election ballot rules, some states allow for mail-in ballots to have a grace period of time, so every legitimized ballot filled out can be properly counted.

Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two key presidential battleground states, are part of the four states that do not even begin counting and processing their mail-in ballots until Election Day. This is all part of each individual state’s guidelines, making these votes legal and completely valid.

In addition, many states accept mail-in ballots that have been received days, even weeks after Election Day is officially over. In Washington State, mail-in ballots received that have been postmarked by Nov. 3 are still valid until Nov. 23 upon arrival, the latest deadline of any state.

Among Washington State’s late deadlines for mail-in ballots, others include California with Nov. 20 deadline, Illinois with Nov. 17 and Utah with Nov. 16. Maryland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. all share a Nov. 13 date. All mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted, according to each state’s deadlines.

This may seem problematic for the American people; doesn’t everyone want to know who their next president will be as soon as possible, especially in this high-stakes 2020 election?

These seemingly extraneous deadlines will actually allow for a more accurate count of the American people’s vote. More eligible Americans will be able to vote and actually have their vote recorded.

For example, an eligible voter who votes by Nov. 3 by mail may get their vote “lost in the mail”, only for it to finally show up weeks later and way past the voting deadline.

Their vote will then not be counted towards their county and the Popular Vote, and in this extremely bipartisan election, every single vote will matter.

Furthermore, there have already been 66 million votes (and counting) cast through early voting and mail-in ballots by Americans. These record-shattering numbers predict the highest voter turnout since 1908, when 65.7 percent of eligible voters participated. That was 150 million voters then, and experts have predicted that the 2020 election will far surpass 150 million votes.

The United States Postal Service has already stated that mail services will be slower due to COVID-19, and with the unprecedentedly high influx of mail-in ballots, the fact that states are allowing mail-in ballots to arrive late will show a higher voter turnout and security in making sure every vote counts.

COVID-19 has also created a large issue for polling stations; health and safety precautions must be adhered to, and understaffing at election booths are a real issue.

Regular poll staff have chosen not to return to their stations this year, lest they risk catching the deadly illness, despite CDC regulated rules. This is yet another reason why so many have chosen to cast their ballot by mail to reduce risk of contact.

Counting mail-in ballots also takes much more time and resources than counting ballots cast in-person. Envelopes must be opened, names and signatures must be compared with existing records and verified, and the ballots themselves have to then be run through counters– and that’s not to mention the new COVID-19 supplementary precautions that will undoubtedly take place.

Even though Americans might not know who their next president is the day after Election Day, they can at least take peace of mind knowing that the time it will take to get the results will be used to ensure every eligible vote counts.

Photo Courtesy of Plaquemines Parish

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