If you’re planning to stay up late on election night to find out who wins—you might be left hanging. In fact, you might not know the official winner for days, or even weeks. That’s due to record numbers of voters using mail-in ballots, which take time to count. And some states won’t even start counting until Election Day.
President Trump keeps insisting that all votes be counted by November 3, but that’s actually impossible. Despite as many as 100 million early votes cast nationwide, only four states— Alabama, Montana, Oklahoma, and Vermont—are expected to reveal "all unofficial results" on election night.
Click on your state to find out when votes will be counted.
States like Arkansas expect to have results the next day. “In a normal election, we absolutely would have unofficial results by the end of election night,” a representative for Arkansas’ secretary of state told VICE News. “In this election our absentee numbers have more than quadrupled from the previous presidential election. That could cause counties to have a longer night than normal and potentially push results to the next day.”
But in some states you’ll have to wait much longer than a day. For example, California and Washington might not be able to report their full unofficial results until November 20 and November 23, respectively, because of their extended mail-in ballot deadlines. The crucial swing state of Pennsylvania is expected to take days to count its ballots. And while the battleground state of Ohio is expected to count most of its ballots by election night, there might not be a final tally until after Thanksgiving.
In another key battleground state, Wisconsin, lawmakers attempted to extend the mail-in ballot deadline, citing COVID-related concerns. But on October 26, the U.S. Supreme Court shot down that request in a 5-3 vote. This means Wisconsinites who were counting on that extension have just one week to get their Plan B together.
If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. The rules are changing in the middle of the game, and they’ll likely keep changing as legal challenges in the states mount.
So here’s a guide to figure out when your state will count your vote and when you’ll know a winner.
2020 Election Timeline
Deadlines when states must receive mail-in ballots, when counts start, and when polls close.