US election 2020: Why the poll results may be delayed

NEW DELHI: Election nights always have surprises, but the worry this year is being driven by the large number of people voting early or by mail, in part driven by the coronavirus. By many estimates, the early vote will eclipse the number of people going to polling places on Election Day for the first time.
That’s an extraordinary change: In 1972, only 5 per cent of votes were cast prior to Election Day, and by 2016 it was 42.5 per cent. That profoundly affects how the results are announced and how fast.
Here is why the US election result could be delayed this year?
Counting differs in different states
Some states begin counting early votes as they come in. Some wait until Election Day or even after polls close. Some key states count absentee ballots only if they are postmarked by Election Day. Elsewhere, ballots can arrive as late as November 13, as is the case in Ohio.
Some states have enough experience that their counts usually go quickly and smoothly. Other counts are more problematic. Florida and North Carolina are two battleground states that have, historically, done well at counting and posting the results of mail ballots on election night.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are prohibited by state law from processing mail ballots until Election Day. It can be a cumbersome process, and since neither state has experience counting as many ballots as are expected this year, it may be days before their results are known.
Mail-in voting preference
A shift to mail voting due to the coronavirus pandemic has increased the chances that Americans will not know the winner of the 2020 Presidential race on election night, November 3. But that doesn’t mean the results will be flawed or fraudulent.
Election officials in some key battleground states have warned that it might take days to count the votes given what they expect will be a surge of ballots sent by mail.
Because processing mail ballots is more laborious than in-person voting, states that haven’t updated their laws and systems for the different workload can see delays.
While each state runs its own process, mail ballots can take longer to count. In some states, the ballots can be accepted several days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked before polls closed. And while some states count the ballots as they come in, others – notably the critical battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – have laws that forbid processing mail ballots until Election Day, guaranteeing the count will extend well past that night.
Lawsuits could mar early results
Early voting data shows Democrats are voting by mail in far greater numbers than Republicans. In states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that do not count mail-in ballots until Election Day, initial results could skew in Trump’s favor, experts say, while the mail ballots counted more slowly are expected to favor Biden.
Democrats have expressed concern that Trump will declare victory on election night and then claim mail-in ballots counted in the following days are tainted by fraud.
A close election could result in litigation over voting and ballot-counting procedures in battleground states. Cases filed in individual states could eventually reach the US Supreme Court which could further delay the election result.
Possibility of Trump refusing the results?
Last month, US President Donald Trump sparked a furor suggesting he might not accept the results of the November 3 election if he loses.
Trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in polls, the US leader refused to rule out the prospect when asked if he would support a peaceful transition. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” he replied.
However, Biden has said he will accept the full result but has insisted: “Count every vote.”
Trump has signalled two possibilities.
First, if the projected results on election night go against him, he will refuse to concede and challenge the vote count, with the support of Republican political operatives on the ground in the states.
That could lead to grinding recounts, with each ballot reviewed and challenged on any anomaly: a smudged signature, an abbreviated address, or a ballot mailed without a special inner envelope meant to ensure secrecy — which in some cases can lead to its rejection as a “naked ballot.”
The process could take weeks.
On the other hand, if Trump sees himself leading the night of November 3, he could declare victory before millions of mailed ballots are tallied.
(With inputs from agencies)

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