Polling experts and election boffins tell us they never expected a winner to be announced on the night.
But people across the world are now starting to wonder why – almost two day after polls closed – we still don’t know who will be the 46th president of the United States.
In a speech in the initial early hours of counting, Donald Trump declared himself the winner of the US election – but his challenger Joe Biden preferred to tell his supporters: “patience, patience, patience”.
And now it seems like patience will be the key.
Here’s why there’s been a delay:
Postal votes are largely to blame. As is the US system of allowing states to make all their own (and often differing) rules on anything, but in this case specifically, also on vote counting. This means that each state sets a different timeline and deadline for when they should be tallied.
Rules in some states don’t allow election workers to begin the labour-intensive work of processing postal (or “mail-in ballots” as they are known in the US) until election day itself.
The deadline for postal votes in North Carolina is 10 November, Alaska is 12 November, and in Washington state, it stretches to 23 November.
Washington and Alaska are relatively unimportant for the final result in the presidential race, in that Washington is strongly Democrat and Alaska is fairly solidly Republican, but it nevertheless means a full vote count will not be available for many days to come.
Postal votes typically take longer to count than those made at the polling stations, as they have to go through a long process of steps to ensure they are not fraudulent.
Of course, this year, there have been recording numbers of them – more than 99 million – due to the coronavirus pandemic. And because of that, dozens of states have modified their rules for mail-in voting – some of those changes being more substantial than others.
California, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont, along with Washington DC, for instance, sent mail-in ballots to all voters, joining the handful of states that already conduct all-mail elections.
There’s also been a big expansion in who can vote “absentee”. Many states, including New Hampshire and New York, have suspended the need for an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot or said fear of contracting COVID-19 while voting is a valid excuse.
Other states have altered deadlines and/or loosened rules for submitting an absentee ballot. Some states – often as the result of litigation – have said mail-in ballots only need to be postmarked by election day, rather than received by then. And in Virginia, for instance, an absentee ballot won’t need a witness signature.
In short, the voting rules vary widely, making announcing an overall winner a difficult – and slow – process.
Photo credit: Collected
News source: Sky News