Most people have their own routines for election night: some people attend parties, others watch results at home with their families, many will avoid watching election results coming in all together. This Election Day will be different. With all of the changes and challenges voters and elections officials are facing, we might not know the outcomes of certain races for days or weeks as states work to verify and count every vote.
Know what you’re watching. Election night coverage isn’t exclusively meant to inform you. It is entertainment coverage meant to drive up profits for news organizations. These organizations use a combination of election results paired with opinion polling and statistical modeling to predict the outcome of elections. With so many people voting from home, exit polling — surveys conducted outside of polling places on Election Day — may be significantly skewed. While their projections may ultimately be correct, it’s important to remember that this election is unlike any we’ve ever seen before. So don’t panic if the results or coverage are different from what you’re used to, take everything you see on TV with a grain of salt, and remember that statistical projections don’t decide who wins elections — voters do.
It will take time to count every vote. We may not know all of the results on election night. At least 12 states require that election officials wait until Election Day to begin processing absentee votes. That means that, in a year where one third of voters plan to vote by mail, millions of ballots will need to be verified through signature matching and ultimately counted. This process takes time, and it should.
There’s work to be done. In 28 states, voters whose ballots are rejected have a chance to have their votes counted through a process called “ballot curing”. But, in some of those states, voters only have 2 days to correct their ballots. In a close election these rejected ballots could change the outcome. Sign up to be an Election Protection volunteer and call voters who need to cure their ballots.
The most important thing you can do to protect democracy in this election is to make sure that everyone you know votes. Check out these other election season resources, and share them with your family and friends: