On the evening of Thursday November 5th, an entire 48 hours after polls closed in some states, we still do not know whether Republican incumbent Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden have emerged victorious. Multiple states are still in the process of counting ballots, and potential or real challenges from the Trump campaign mean that an official result seems unlikely in the immediate future.
Here is an overview of when we can expect results from each of the states, which have either yet to declare a winner, or will possibly experience a recount or challenge of some sort.
With 86% of estimated votes reported at the time of writing, Biden’s lead over Trump has narrowed to just over 61,000 votes (2.1%). According to the Arizona secretary of state, “there were at least 400,000 ballots left to be counted statewide on Thursday afternoon.” According to The New York Times, “officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, said they would release another results update after 9 p.m. Eastern” on Thursday. When we consider that, as reported by FiveThirtyEight, “absentee ballots received at the last minute will not be reported until perhaps Thursday or Friday,” given that the race is becoming tighter in Arizona, we may not have a result there until Friday night or even Saturday morning.
The race in Georgia is unbelievably close, with Trump holding a lead of just 3,486 votes (0.1%) over Biden with more than 98% of estimated votes reported. According to the Georgia secretary of state, counting will continue into Thursday afternoon “with just 47,000 outstanding ballots,” with The New York Times reporting that Georgia officials have stated that counting will continue into the evening if necessary.
In Georgia, if the final margin is no more than 0.5% of total votes cast, a recount may be requested. Given that Georgia is a crucial state for Trump, it’s likely that a recount would be requested if Biden achieves a narrow victory. If this occurs, it may be days before we know whether Trump or Biden will receive Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump and Biden are also agonizingly close in Nevada, with Biden holding a slim 11,438 vote (0.9%) lead over Trump with 89% of estimated votes reported. According to Nevada’s secretary of state, approximately 190,000 ballots remain to be counted, with almost 124,000 of them “being either mail-in ballots or ballots returned at drop-off locations.” She also said that 90% of these ballots were in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
In Nevada, ballots received 7 days after Election Day will be accepted if they are postmarked by Election Day, and ballots without postmarks will be accepted up to 3 days after Election Day. With the margin incredibly small between the two candidates, it seems likely that ballot counting will continue for these 7 days, meaning that we probably won’t know who won Nevada until November 10th. If either candidate demands a recount, then we may have to wait even longer.
Despite Trump leading for most of Election Night, the gap has narrowed to just under 77,000 votes (1.4%) with 95% of estimated votes reported. Pending litigation, North Carolina will accept mail-in ballots 9 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day, which means that it is likely we will have to wait until November 12th to know who will receive North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes.
If the margin tightens to 0.5% or 10,000 votes (whichever is less), a recount can be requested. It this occurs, we may have to wait even longer.
Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania has slowly narrowed, with only 64,266 votes (0.9%) separating the candidates with 94% of estimated votes reported. According to The New York Times, “officials have said they expect most votes will be counted by Friday,” with the Department of State’s website estimating that around 370,000 were still being counted as of Thursday. It is unlikely that we will have a final count until at least Friday, since Pennsylvania will accept mail-in ballots up to three days after Election Day if they were postmarked on November 3rd.
Pennsylvania is a must-win state for Trump to have any chance of remaining in office, and with controversy surrounding the pivotal state, it is likely that lawsuits and other challenges will delay final results. In addition, Pennsylvania state law has a recount mandate when the margin is 0.5% or less. In a state which is likely going to come down to the wire, a mandatory recount must be completed three weeks after the election, meaning that we may have to wait until late November to know who won Pennsylvania — and therefore, who won the election.
In the state of Alaska, Trump holds a healthy lead of over 51,000 votes (22.9%) with 56% of estimated votes reported. These correspond to in-person early voting through October 29th and from the precincts on November 3rd. According to The New York Times, “no mail or other absentee ballots will be counted until about a week after the election.”
If Alaska, and its 3 electoral votes, becomes a crucial part of Trump’s path to victory, we will have to wait until next week to know for sure if he has secured those votes.
Even though multiple outlets have called Wisconsin for Biden, who holds a lead of 20,000 votes (0.6%) over Trump with more than 98% of estimated votes reported, this margin is well within the 1% required to permit a non-mandatory recount. The Trump campaign has said that it “would ask for an immediate recount,” which must be completed “within 13 days of order for recount,” meaning that we may have to wait at least 2 weeks to know whether Biden did in fact secure Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes as part of his Great Lakes “blue wall.”
The state of Michigan was also called for Biden, who holds a margin of more than 146,000 votes (2.6%) over Trump with more than 98% of estimated votes reported. However, the Trump campaign “filed a lawsuit Wednesday to halt the state’s vote count, claiming it did not have proper access to observing the opening of absentee ballots.” If a judge rules in favor of the lawsuit, it’s uncertain whether this will delay the official results.
Ultimately, Pennsylvania is the key state to watch. If current trends continue, a recount is likely. When we consider additional lawsuits from the Trump campaign, this could further delay the result, meaning that it could be weeks until we know who won Pennsylvania. If the race continues to remain close in other states, this would mean that it could also be weeks until we know who won this election.