Nov 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How to watch the battleground states

Data: Secretaries of state offices and state election boards, Real Clear Politics; Chart: Sara Wise and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Secretaries of state offices and state election boards, Real Clear Politics; Chart: Sara Wise and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

We're not going to know the next president until we have a clear idea of who's winning the battleground states — and some of those results will be delayed as states sort through an avalanche of mail-in ballots.

The big picture: If it's close, Americans could face a days-long waiting game to find out who the president-elect will be — especially if it comes down to Pennsylvania, where we might not know the results until at least Friday.

  • Election officials in states such as Georgia and North Carolina expressed confidence in being able to have clear (but not finalized) results on election night or the next day.
  • Arizona, Florida and Texas declined to provide an estimated timeline for completed results due to elections looking different in each county and uncertainty about late-arriving mail-in ballots.
  • Michigan could take until Friday, too.
  • Most of these key states — except Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and most of Michigan — have already been processing absentee ballots, which helps expedite the counting process.
  • Arizona, Florida and large counties in Texas have already started the counting process as well.

Reality check: No matter what anyone says on election night, waiting for mail ballots to be counted is normal and happens in every election.

What to watch: Here's when state officials have said we can expect unofficial election results:

  1. Arizona: Early ballots will have to have the signatures verified, and there's no way to know how many voters will turn those in on Election Day, according to Sophia Solis, spokesperson for the office of Arizona's secretary of state.
  2. Florida: Election night results will not be released at the state level until 8 pm Eastern, according to a spokesperson for the Florida Department of State. The spokesperson declined to provide any other projections for the timing of results.
  3. Georgia: Results are expected late Tuesday for non-close races. Even in the close races, Walter Jones, spokesperson for the Secretary of State office said, they will probably have it sorted out by Wednesday.
  4. Michigan: The Secretary of State's office expects it to take until roughly Friday to process and count all the ballots, according to spokesperson Tracy Wimmer.
  5. Minnesota: "We expect that all or substantially all of in-person election day votes and absentee votes will reported election night or soon after," said Peter Bartz-Gallagher, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office.
  6. North Carolina: "Results reported by the end of election night will include 97 percent or more of all ballots cast in North Carolina in the 2020 general election," according to the Board of Elections.
  7. Ohio: "We expect results from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning," said Maggie Sheehan, press secretary for the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
  8. Pennsylvania: Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a recent interview that she expects the "overwhelming majority” of votes will be counted by Friday, Nov 6.
  9. Texas: The Texas secretary of state's office declined to provide any expected timeline given the large size of the state and that elections are run on a county-by-county-basis.
  10. Wisconsin: "In some bigger cities, especially where they count absentee ballots at a central location instead of the polling place, we might not see all the results until the next morning," said Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
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