There is quite a bit of uncertainty as to when the final results of the 2020 US presidential election would be declared. While multiple reports suggest that the final results will not be announced anytime soon, given the postal ballots pouring in from various states amid the coronavirus pandemic, some suggest that there could be a clear indication of who would attain a majority on election night itself.
Here's a look at the process and when would it be clear if Joe Biden or Donald Trump would emerge victorious in the race to the White House:
While millions of Americans have already voted, each state has different rules on when it's allowed to start counting ballots. That is going to produce results coming in at different times perhaps days or even weeks after Election Day, AP reported.
The first state to open in-person voting is Vermont, which will commence at 5 am EST (2.30 pm IST on November 3). Following this, most states will begin polling at 6 am EST (3.30 pm IST). The first polls will close at 7 pm EST (4.30 am IST) and voting across the US would culminate by 9 pm EST (6.30 am IST on November 4).
Some states allow election officials to begin processing ballots weeks before Election Day. That means workers can start verifying voter information while also removing ballots from their envelopes to physically get them ready for tabulation. Doing so readies ballots for counting on Election Day and will expedite the release of results.
But it's not that simple.
In some critical battleground states, laws prevent early processing of ballots. So on November 3, officials will have to run an in-person election while working through the unprecedented number of mail-in votes. This dynamic is likely to delay results and heighten the potential for big shifts if in-person vote tallies are upended by the counting of mail-in ballots.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned of "voting fraud" without offering any evidence. Because of that, there are concerns that he will use delays in vote-counting to declare results illegitimate. While results might come in later than usual this year, that's because of a change in how people are voting, not malfeasance or fraud.
Here is another wrinkle: Nationwide delivery delays at the US Postal Service are sparking fears that ballots might not arrive in time to be counted. Republicans, including Trump's campaign, have been filing lawsuits to stop election officials from counting ballots that are delivered after Election Day.
For example: As of right now in Pennsylvania, votes that arrive by mail three days after November 3, will be counted, after an intense legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court last week. Republicans have filed another suit against the extension. Moreover, Pennsylvania does not allow early processing of mail-in ballots, complicating matters further.
In Michigan, another hotly contested state, an appeals court has struck down a 14-day ballot-counting extension, leading the state's top election official to urge voters to drop off their ballots in person rather than use postal service. Courts have also nixed similar extensions in Wisconsin and Indiana.
The New York Times reported that results are never official until final certification, which takes place in the weeks following the election.
Nonetheless, on election night the fate of numerous candidates would be decided and there may be clear indications on who has a clear majority, but postal ballots could push back the release of full results.
Moreover, there are clear indications that unlike in the past, many states would not have complete results on election night.
So, it remains to be seen when the final results will be declared and whether or not Donald Trump is reelected to the White House.
With inputs from Associated Press.
(Edited by : Abhishek Jha)
First Published: IST