Typically, the winner is announced a few hours after polls close on the West Coast. In 2016, the winner was announced at around 11:30 PM PST. This year, however, will be different since millions of Americans are going to be voting by mail because of the pandemic. This means it could take several days, or even weeks, to find out who the winner of the election is.
Several states including Kentucky and New York already needed an additional week to count ballots in this year’s primaries, due to the mail-in-voting caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This could be foreshowing of what’s to come this election day. Election officials have repeatedly said that accuracy is more important than speed, and to not expect results on Election Day.
David Becker, founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, said “We have to prepare for the very strong probability that an election unlike any other we’ve ever had might take a little longer to accurately count with integrity…more time being taken to report results is not an indication of a problem” emphasizing that a winner will not be declared on Election Day.
President Trump has said and tweeted many times that he opposes universal vote-by-mail, saying it is very likely that it has a high chance of being fraudulent. He has said it is fine in states where voters must request a mail-in-ballot in advance, but not in states that will automatically mail ballots to registered voters. In 2017, Trump, his wife Melania, and his daughter Ivanka all cast absentee votes during New York’s mayoral race. In 2018, Trump voted by mail during New York’s midterm election. Again, in 2020, Trump cast an absentee ballot in Florida’s presidential primary.
When a reporter asked him why he voted by mail when he has said that mail-in voting was corrupt, he responded by saying, “Because I’m allowed to”. Trump has also cut US Postal Service funding which is responsible for delivering postal ballots, which will cause a further delay in the winner being announced.
Hillary Clinton, Trumps opponent in 2016, has said Biden should not concede on Election Day “under any circumstances, because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is”. Biden has said him and Kamala will accept the result granted “Every vote [has been counted]”. Both Trump and Pence have not committed to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that they lose.
Trump has said that the election result could end up in the Supreme Court. He has told reporters, “I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court”. This has happened before, in the 2000 election, when Al Gore contested that Florida should be recounted. It took 36 days for the Supreme Court to recount the votes and come to a decision. It could take much longer if either candidate decides to contest multiple states.