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What to Expect on Election Night 2020

We may not know all the results once polls close on Nov. 3 — but have faith in our election.

The 2020 election has been unprecedented — and election night will be unprecedented, too.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic,  historic numbers of Americans are choosing to vote by absentee and mail-in ballots. To accommodate health and social distance concerns, lawmakers in many states have waived the need for an excuse to vote absentee. 

Here’s what that means: In many states, results may take several days to count. 

The volume of mail-in ballots makes a long counting process inevitable in some cases. But in certain states the law requires election officials to wait until Election Day, or the week of the election, to open mailed-in ballots. In a handful of states, politicians are even fighting to prevent officials from counting ballots early — ensuring that millions of ballots already returned to election offices will sit uncounted until November 3.

What Does This Mean?

Many States, and Many Races, May Not Be Called on Election Night.

Results will come earlier, though, in states that can begin counting ballots before Nov. 3. Here’s a guide to how the count might go.

Some Politicians May Claim Victory Prematurely.

But we won’t really know the outcomes until all of our votes are counted.

Candidates With Early Leads May Still Lose, and Vice Versa.

But this is normal in elections with high numbers of mail ballots.

But Here’s the Good News.

People are voting early in record-breaking numbers. More than 50 million Americans have already cast their votes, either using mail-in ballots or by voting early in person. All over the country, people are determined to make sure that WE decide who our leaders are — no matter how long it may take to count all the votes. 

Throughout history, even in times of great crisis, the United States has always held elections and upheld the results. We held successful presidential elections amid the Civil War, the Great Depression, and both world wars. 

Now it's our turn to prove that nothing — not even this pandemic — will stand in the way of our democratic commitment to voting. 

Here’s What to Do:


As early as possible — drop off your ballot, get to the polls in person now, or vote on Election Day.

Make a Plan

Stay Calm.

The count may take a day or even a few days, and that’s okay.

Wait for Official Results.

Major news organizations, such as the Associated Press, and election officials will share results once all votes have been counted.