Like the rest of 2020, election night will be different

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought about dramatic changes to the way we work, go to school, shop, and even how we interact with family and friends. So it should be no surprise that for many Americans, it has also changed the way that we vote.

As the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, I have worked with Secretaries of State and local election officials across the country and I know how hard they are working to conduct an election both safely and securely in the midst of this pandemic.

Many states have expanded voting options, including mail-in ballots, early in-person voting, and ballot drop boxes. And the turnout has been unprecedented. As of today, more than 93 million Americans have already cast their ballots.

With the number of people voting this year likely to be higher than in any previous presidential election, and with people voting by mail in record numbers, election night is going to look different than it has in the past. That’s because we may not know the winner in some states on election night. That’s not a cause for alarm, it’s how elections in the U.S. are supposed to work, and it’s important to understand how different states’ laws will affect election night vote tallies.

The Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that states are primarily responsible for conducting elections. Because of this, each state has its own election laws that govern everything from when polls are open to who can cast a ballot by mail. About half of the states require mail-in ballots to be received by Election Day, and about half allow them to be received later if they are postmarked by Election Day.

Just as different states have different rules for how ballots are accepted, states also have different rules regarding when ballots can be processed and counted. Some states can start this process well before Election Day as ballots come in, but more than 20 states have rules that prevent officials from processing ballots until Election Day or the day before.

Some key battleground states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, allow for little or no advanced processing of ballots, so their initial election night totals will include few or no mail-in ballots.

Is this confusing? Yes. Is it, as some have suggested, fraudulent? Of course not.

Election experts warn that because a higher percentage of Republicans are likely to vote in-person this year, while more Democrats are requesting mail-in ballots, the early vote counts in certain states that don’t include many mail-in ballots may be very different than the final count which includes them.

Americans should also be prepared to reject misinformation and be patient about results in places where counting ballots may take longer. The key is understanding that the legal counting of ballots after Election Day doesn’t change or “flip” the results of the election, rather it is the results of the election.

Our nation has been through close races before. We’ve also been through elections during hard times. Through it all, democracy has prevailed. So I urge you to make your voice heard by exercising your right to vote and be patient as the votes are counted.

Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the United States Senate where she serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which has oversight over federal elections.

Tags 2020 presidential election Amy Klobuchar Coronavirus mail-in voting

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