When Will Presidential Election Results Be Announced?

It’s been almost 70 years since the first time Americans watched election results being tallied in real time on CBS, and ever since, we’ve expected to know who the next president will be within a few hours of the polls closing on Election Day. Even in years when the results are contested or represent a confusing disparity between Electoral College and popular votes (hello, 2016), we usually have a pretty conclusive idea of who has won by the morning after Election Day. 2020, however, was different.

It’s time to get comfortable with the idea of an “Election Week” following what we might want to reclassify as the voting “deadline” on Nov. 3. With the number of mail-in ballots submitted this year expected to amount to more than double those sent in 2016, and with elections offices and voting locations especially understaffed—all due to the COVID-19 pandemic—we won’t know for certain whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden has won the election for days after Election Day, or possibly even longer. So, while the major news networks carried on the tradition of live-tracking poll returns all night long, it wasn’t surprising when they didn’t have a solid projection by the wee hours of Nov. 4.

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