Election results may not be final on election night

Large numbers of absentee ballots may take longer than a night to tally
Posted at 7:01 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 19:01:23-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 2020 election is shaping up to be a close one. Throw in the variable of a global pandemic, and the story on results gets murkier.

Several recent surveys show that Biden supporters are twice as likely to vote absentee, while supporters of the president are more likely to show up to the polls and vote in-person.

In light of a potentially skewed perception of the results through election night and in the subsequent days, local election officials are calling for patience and are warning that the results may not be clear by the stroke of midnight on November 3rd.

“Please, be patient when it’s time for election results,” Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “My office expects a huge influx of absentee ballots this year and that means it is going to take longer to count and process those ballots.”

Posthumus Lyons went on to say that one month out from the election, close to 40,000 Kent County voters had returned their absentee ballots. Close to 69,000 Kent County voters turned in total in 2016.

“We are not going to sacrifice security and accuracy for speed,” said Posthumus Lyons.

On Tuesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that allows municipalities with 25,000 residents or more to begin processing absentee ballots prior to election day. That doesn’t mean counting – only sorting for counting – but will save poll workers a significant amount of time and should produce results faster.

“I would think that the in-person votes would be counted pretty quickly,” said political science professor David Rutledge with Central Michigan University. “Mail-in, call it absentee ballot, that process is going to be slower.”

“While you may have one winner from the in-person voting, it is highly possible that there would be a different outcome once all of the ballots are counted,” he added.

According to the United States Election Project, an estimated 4-million Americans have already cast their ballot, setting the stage for potentially record setting turnout, even if turnout at the polls themselves don’t reflect it.