A lot of voters are asking these questions right now: How quickly will ballots be counted in the presidential election? Which states will have results — and possibly a winner — on election night?

In a year when absentee ballots are surging, a lot depends on when officials first start what’s called pre-processing of ballots. This ranges from verifying signatures, opening envelopes and flattening ballots to get them ready for tabulation.

Some states begin this work weeks in advance and others are only allowed to begin on Election Day. States that begin early may have a lot more results counted by election night.

Because of the surge in mail ballots that need to be counted, if the presidential race is close, the winner may not be known on election night. More than 80.5 million absentee ballots have already been requested or sent to voters nationwide.


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