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How early and mail-in voting could affect when we learn the winner of the 2020 election

October 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

More than 350 people were in line to vote when the poll opened at 8 a.m., the first arriving was at 4:45 a.mm on Thursday, October 15, 2020 at Roberts Park in Raleigh, N.C. This was the first day of early voting in North Carolina.

More Americans are casting their ballots early than ever before. If that correlates with higher turnout overall -- and polling suggests it will -- it will be good for democracy.

Of those six, the law currently states that most ballots must be received by Election Day in Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin.

In the other three states, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the current law is only that the ballots be postmarked by Election Day.

While the lionshare of the mail votes in each of those states is likely to be submitted long before Election Day, some voters may very well wait it out.

A recent Fox News poll in Pennsylvania found, for example, that 10% of likely voters said they'd be voting by mail and submitting their ballot on Election Day.

If the total ends up being that high and the election is close, it will be hard to know who has won in any of those three (Michigan, North Carolina or Pennsylvania) states without seeing the final votes.

It's when the mail votes that are cast before Election Day are allowed to be processed.

As The New York Times notes, "this ranges from verifying signatures, opening envelopes and flattening ballots to get them ready for tabulation. " Allowing processing before Election Day speeds up the counting on election night.

Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and cities with populations over 25,000 in Michigan are allowed to process ballots before Election Day.

This means that even though Wisconsin mail ballots have to be received by Election Day, there could be a logjam of them to be counted once the processing begins.

Wisconsin's vote counting looks likely to bleed into the day after the election, according to election officials cited by The New York Times.

Arizona and Florida are the two states where most ballots must be in by Election Day and processing of mail votes can begin before Election Day. But even in Arizona, with a history of high mail voting, the vote count has historically taken a very long time.

Now, none of this would necessarily be a problem for counting ballots if the early votes were expected to have the same partisan breakdown as the ballots cast on Election Day. Of course, that's not going to be the case.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted late last month found Biden was ahead by 36 points among those voting before Election Day. Trump was up by 19 points among those who said they'd vote on Election Day. There's just no precedent for any spread like that or for the number of folks voting early.

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