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Determining the winner of this presidential election will look different from previous years, as many people are voting early or mailing in their ballots.
“This year it is likely to take longer to get all the votes calculated, particularly in states where they are not able to start counting the ballots ahead of time but we have a lot more mail-in ballots and early voting,” SIU political science professor Tobin Grant said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused 94 million voters to vote early and those ballots need to be counted. Different states have different laws about when the ballot needs to be postmarked, received and counted, visiting professor John Jackson said.
Courts are making decisions about counting mail-in ballots, some are allowing ballots to be counted if posted marked before election day and received within a certain number of days.
In Illinois, a mail-in ballot can be counted if it is postmarked before or on election day. The Supreme Court has been sorting out the voting deadlines, mostly relying on state law, Jackson said
“In some of the states, they are trying to change it to allow more time for votes to come in,” Grant said.
Grant said the states are not making the voting process more restrictive but they are also not making it more expansive.
“This year is different for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that a lot of people already voted,” political science professor Scott McClurg said.
More Democrats have been voting early, which could mean more Republicans will be showing up for voting on election day.
“We are going to have a pretty good idea about how most of the presidential election results are on election night because a lot of the states are going to be so one-sided,” Grant said.
Grant said what is going to delay results is if votes are closer than expected in states like Pennsylvania or Florida.
In the 2016 election, President Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, but he won the electoral college vote. According to a poll done by FiveThirtyEight in the 2016 election, Hilary Clinton was up by four percent.
“It would be terribly unfortunate if it does happen again because that would mean three out of the last six elections we have gotten a divided vote,” Jackson said.
This is unlikely to happen again this year, but it could happen again in the future, Grant said.
“If it were to happen again this year, it would be Trump winning the electoral college but not the popular vote. It is almost impossible for the opposite to happen,” Grant said.
In the 2016 election, there was more uncertainty about who the candidates are, and now people know Trump and they know Joe Biden, Grant said.
McClurg said there is a small chance of Trump winning the election, but not winning the popular vote.
“Right now from the information I have, it doesn’t look like he is going to win,” McClurg said. “If that happens again, what will start to happen is people will ask if it’s time to change the rules.”
Once all the votes are counted, it is important to know which news outlets are reputable sources to get information from.
“I would not trust any news source about the election outcome unless you’re very familiar with it,” Grant said.
The major news outlets work together on gathering the polls from the day of the election and looking at results, Grant said.
“The Associated Press does the national count and they are usually pretty cautious and pretty good about putting out the right numbers,” Jackson said.
The election outcomes are not finalized until they are approved by the local election officials, Grant said.
Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @mosbyj.
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