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US Election: Poll closing, counting in 6 key states

  • Published at 08:55 pm November 3rd, 2020
US Election
Vote signs outside Palm Beach County Public Library polling station during the 2020 presidential election in Palm Beach, Florida, US on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 Reuters

Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are likely to determine the US presidential poll

The presidency of the United States is not determined by the popular vote. Rather, it is decided by a unique nationwide electoral college system. There are 538 electoral college votes that represent 438 house of representatives and 100 senators.

Therefore, the presidential candidates always try to secure the magic 270 electoral college votes to win the election. And, like in previous elections, this election will be determined by a handful of battleground states, especially Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Usually, following the closure of polls in each state, various media outlets make projections about the outcome based on the ongoing counting and exit polls that are taken on people returning after casting their votes.

If any candidate’s lead is significant in a state, the winner is named. If the race is tight, it is projected “too close to call.”

In general, based on the media projections and exit polls, candidates concede or claim victory within a few hours from the closing of the polls. The deadline for official certification of the ballots is December 14.   

This time round, this is unlikely to happen because nearly 100 million US voters have already voted early – either in person or through mail. And every state has its own processes and rules with respect to counting the votes.

Below are the processes and rules of counting votes in all important six battleground states:

Arizona

Mail ballots must arrive by November 3. The processing of pre-election votes began upon receipt, and the tallying began on October 20.


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Polls close at 9pm on Tuesday, local time (10am on Wednesday, in Bangladesh). Pre-election vote results are expected first; vote release begins one hour after polls close.  

Arizona typically has large amounts of ballots left to count after election night.

Florida

Mail ballots must arrive by November 3. The process began on September 24; the counting takes place on Election Day.

Polls close at 8pm on Tuesday, Florida time (7am on Wednesday, Bangladesh time). Most pre-election vote results are expected to be released first. Most counting is typically finished on the election night.

Michigan

Mail ballots must arrive by Election Day. Some large cities started processing the pre-election votes on November 2, while the rest of the state starts on November 3. The counting begins on November 3.

Final polls close at 9pm on Tuesday, local time (8am on Wednesday in Bangladesh). Counties vary on order of releasing pre-election and November 3 results. Michigan expects to finish counting by November 6.

North Carolina

Mail ballots must arrive by November 12, nine days after Election Day. The process of pre-election votes began on September 29; the votes are counted on November 3.

Polls close at 7:30pm on Tuesday, local time (6:30am on Wednesday in Bangladesh). Most counties release pre-election votes first.


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North Carolina typically finishes most vote counting on the election night, while the late-arriving ballots may increase the number left to count.

Pennsylvania

Mail ballots must arrive by November 6, three days after the polling day. Pre-election votes are not processed or counted until November 3.

Polls close at 8pm on Tuesday, local time (7am on Wednesday in Bangladesh). Counties are not required to count mail ballots until after the election day. Some counties will not count any mail ballots on election night. Counties vary on order of releasing pre-election and November 3 results – some released in waves mixed with election day voting. 

Pennsylvania expects to finish counting by November 6.

Wisconsin

Mail ballots must arrive by November 3. Pre-election votes are processed and counted on November 3.

Polls close at 9pm on Tuesday, local time (8am on Wednesday in Bangladesh). Counties vary on the order of releasing pre-election and November 3 results. Some municipalities release November 3 votes first, others mix pre-election ballots with November 3 vote. Wisconsin expects to finish counting by November 4.

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