(WAVY) — On November 9, 2016 at 2:30 a.m., then-presidential candidate Donald Trump clinched the state of Wisconsin — and with it the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Five minutes later, Hillary Clinton called to concede. Millions of Americans stayed up hours past their bedtime to watch.
This is the election night ritual Americans have grown accustomed to. This is not what election officials predict will happen this November and they want the public to be prepared.
“It’s definitely going to be different this year,” said Mary Lynn Pinkerman, general registrar for the City of Chesapeake. “There are more opportunities for voters to get their ballots in, but it does extend the timing on getting official results.”
We will have the traditional in-person vote tallies from the precincts on Nov. 3. But officials caution those election night numbers will likely change as they count absentee ballots.
This year, a record number of Americans voted by mail. And those votes take a lot longer to count. As long as a ballot is postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrives at the registrar’s office by Friday at noon, it will be counted.
Each state has their own laws on processing absentee ballots.
Virginia has one of the speediest in the nation. Absentee ballots can be processed as they are received — expediting the process greatly — they just can’t be tallied until after the polls close on election night.
Other states have slower processes, and that can slow down the national results.
“We will work as fast as we possibly can and bring extra folks in,” said Pinkerman. “We hope to have as much of it done by that Friday as we possibly can. But it easily could spill over into that Monday or Tuesday if we get a lot of last-minute mail-in ballots that made the deadline.”
By law, election officials have a full week to certify an election — and it could take that long.
As America watches and waits for a winner, just remember patience is necessary this election season.
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