How will absentee voting change the count on Election Day?

Election Day is nearly upon us, and this year, more votes than ever before will be cast via absentee mail-in ballot, meaning the process of counting votes will take longer than ever as well.

“The hard part is actually checking the signature, seeing if it matches the signature of a voter online,” said Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School. “It’s work.”

Not only is it work, but it’s also work that the three swing states that secured victory for Donald Trump can not even begin to do until Election Day or just before, per state rules.

“That’s Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and of course those were the three states that decided the 2016 election,” Briffault said. “So in those states, we will probably have to wait several days to have the full unofficial tally.”

However, experts point out that most states can start getting the ballots ready for counting much earlier, meaning a faster turnaround for results. 

The battleground states of Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, for instance, are already not only processing but counting the absentee vote count. 

If either candidate is ahead by a wide margin on Election Day, the absentee counts will likely not change the outcome. However, if things are close, it could be days until unofficial results return, along with lots of legal challenges that could further prolong the result.

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