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Megan Feeney

Megan Feeney is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Are results reported on election night coming from in-person or absentee/mail-in votes?

According to a projection from The New York Times, 80 million people will vote by mail in 2020, that number is more than twice the amount of people who did so in 2016. Given that absentee ballots take longer to process and count than in-person ballots, some voters wonder whether election night results reflect both sources of votes.

Election results reported on election night include a mixture of absentee/mail-in and in-person votes. However, many states will not complete the counting of absentee votes on election night. While some states only count absentee ballots that arrive after November 3, 2020 but are postmarked by that date, and other states are legally bound to wait until Election Day to begin processing absentee/mail-in ballots.

State laws set different reporting requirements for absentee/mail-in votes on election night. The most common method is for each precinct or voting district to add together in-person and absentee votes and report the total to the state elections agency. A few states create special precincts where absentee/mail-in votes are counted separately from in-person votes. For example, in Iowa, state law requires each county to have both an absentee ballot and special voters precinct.

Unofficial election night results are often displayed alongside the percentage of precincts reporting, which is intended as a measure of how far vote counting has progressed. The percentage of precincts reporting is not the same as the percentage of the total vote that has been counted. Precincts differ in size, meaning that one precinct might report a far greater number of votes than another. In addition, some states include a precinct in its percentage of precincts reporting if the precinct has reported any results at all, even if it is far from completing the vote count.

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Who runs elections in the United States?

Election administration in the U.S. is largely decentralized. Administrators at the state and local level are responsible for running elections, from maintaining voter registration records to counting ballots. As a result, election laws and procedures vary widely among states and localities.

Each state has an agency that manages elections. Responsibilities of the state-level office often include training local elections officials, maintaining a voter registration database, and offering guidance on the testing of voting machines. Each state also has a head elections official. In 24 states, the chief elections official is an elected Secretary of State.

At the local level, county governments are most commonly responsible for election administration, rather than city or town governments. According to one estimate, more than 10,000 local entities administrate elections in the U.S. In many municipalities, elections are managed by a clerk, recorder, or registrar, who has other duties in addition to running elections.

On the national level, the Election Assistance Commission is responsible for maintaining a national voter registration form and offers guidance on elections administration to state agencies. Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is responsible for enforcing federal campaign finance laws. Established in 1975, the FEC manages public funding of presidential campaigns, oversees limits on campaign contributions, and publishes information on how campaigns raise and spend money.

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What happens if a presidential nominee becomes incapacitated before the election?

Political parties set procedures for how to fill vacancies on the national ticket in the event that a presidential or vice-presidential candidate withdraws from the race or becomes incapacitated.

The Democratic National Committee outlines the process it uses to fill vacancies in its Charter and Bylaws. In the event of a vacancy on the national ticket, the Chairperson of the DNC, currently Tom Perez, would call a special meeting, and members of the DNC would select a replacement candidate.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee allows for two options for selecting a replacement candidate. The first option is for the members of the RNC to select a candidate. The second option is for the party to hold a second national convention. In that case, the party’s delegates would select the replacement candidate.

However, whether it is possible for a party to change a candidate’s name on the ballot depends on ballot certification deadlines set by the states. These certification deadlines have passed, and absentee and early voting in the 2020 presidential election have already begun in some states.

The Electoral College could assume an important role in the event that a presidential candidate becomes incapacitated after it is no longer possible to replace his or her name on the ballot. In some states, electors are not required by law to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state or district. These electors could vote for a replacement candidate that their political party has selected.

Other states do have laws that require electors to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state or district. However, it is a controversial legal question whether these laws are binding in the scenario where the winning candidate is unable to serve. Whether it is legal for electors in these states to vote for a party’s replacement candidate would likely be settled in the courts.

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Special election called in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District after candidate’s death

The general election for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District has been postponed after the death of Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks. A special election for the seat is scheduled for February 9, 2021.

According to Minnesota law, if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of the general election, a special election must be held. The Legal Marijuana Now Party is qualified as a major party in Minnesota.

The race for MN-02 will still appear on the November 3 ballot. However, any votes cast on November 3 will not count, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. The outcome of the February special election will determine who wins the seat.

The current candidates in the race—incumbent Angie Craig (D) and Tyler Kistner (R)—automatically qualify for the special election. The Legal Marijuana Now Party will have the chance to select a new candidate.

Passed in 2013, the state law requiring the special election was inspired by the 2002 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash weeks before the general election. The Democratic Party nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale as a replacement candidate, but he was defeated by Republican Norm Coleman.

Angie Craig’s term ends on January 3, 2021. That means that Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District will be without a representative in the House until the winner of the special election assumes office.

As of September 2020, 11 special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

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Special election approaches for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District

The special general election for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District is on September 29, 2020. A runoff election is scheduled for December 1. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote in September, the top-two vote recipients will advance to the runoff.
 
Seven candidates are competing in the special election:
Robert Franklin (D)
Kwanza Hall (D)
Barrington Martin II (D)
Mable Thomas (D)
Keisha Sean Waites (D)
Chase Oliver (L)
Steven Muhammad (Independent)
 
The winner of the special election will serve until January 3, 2021. The seat is also up in a regularly scheduled election on November 3.
 
The special election was called after John Lewis (D) passed away on July 17. Lewis served from 1987 to 2020.
 
As of September 16, 10 special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. Eight of those were called for seats in the U.S. House, and two were called for seats in the U.S. Senate. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

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Voters to decide Delaware’s congressional primaries

The statewide primary for Delaware is on September 15, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on July 14, 2020. Candidates are running in congressional elections for one seat in the U.S. House and one seat in the U.S. Senate.

Primary winners will advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020. Delaware’s primary is the final statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle.

The U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 35 out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. Meanwhile, the U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Voters decide state legislative primaries in Massachusetts

Massachusetts held its statewide primary on September 1, 2020. There were 200 state legislative seats on the ballot, 40 in the state Senate and 160 in the state House. Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

As of September 3, several races were still too close to call. In the state House, 145 incumbents filed for re-election, and all 40 incumbents in the state Senate filed for re-election. At least two incumbents were defeated in the primary across the two chambers. In the 17th Middlesex District of the state House, Vanna Howard defeated incumbent David Nangle and Lisa Arnold in the Democratic primary. In the state Senate’s Hampden District, Adam Gomez defeated incumbent James Welch in the Democratic primary. Neither Howard nor Gomez face Republican opposition in the general election.

Massachusetts has a divided government in which no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when a political party holds both the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Although Democrats hold a majority in both chambers, Massachusetts elected Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2014.

The next two primaries in the 2020 election cycle are on September 8 in New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

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Filing deadline approaches for Jersey City City Council special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Jersey City City Council Ward D have until August 31, 2020, to file. The special general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. No primary election is scheduled.

The special election was called after Michael Yun passed away on April 6, 2020, due to complications from COVID-19. Yun was first elected in 2013 and held the office until his death.

The winner of the special election will serve out the rest of Yun’s unexpired term, ending on December 31, 2021. All nine seats on the city council are up for regular election in 2021.

Jersey City is the second-largest city in New Jersey by population and the 73rd-largest city in the United States.

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Oklahoma to hold primary runoffs on August 25

Oklahoma’s statewide primary runoff is scheduled for August 25, 2020. Tulsa’s general election is scheduled for the same day.

Oklahoma’s statewide primary was on June 30, 2020. If no candidate received a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters advanced to the primary runoff. The runoff winners will advance to the general election on November 3, 2020. The filing deadline passed on April 10.

There are no Democratic primary runoffs on the ballot. Republican candidates are competing in primary runoffs for the following offices:
Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District
Oklahoma State Senate Districts 5, 7, 17, 35, and 43
Oklahoma House of Representatives Districts 71, 79, and 96
Cleveland County Sheriff

Oklahoma County Sheriff

Meanwhile, candidates in Tulsa are competing in general elections for mayor and Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 on the city council. A general runoff election, if necessary, is scheduled for November 3, 2020. No primary election was held for these races. The filing deadline passed on June 10, 2020.

Tulsa is the second-largest city in Oklahoma and the 47th largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Voters decide state executive and legislative races in five states

Four states held statewide primaries on August 11, 2020: Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Georgia also held a primary runoff on the same date. Georgia’s primary election took place on June 9, 2020. When no candidate earned a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters advanced to the runoff.

There were 706 state executive and legislative seats up for election. These included six state executive seats, 155 state Senate seats, and 545 state House seats.

Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

The following information was current as of August 13. At that time, some races were still too close to call. Across the five states, 605 incumbents filed for re-election to the 706 seats. Preliminary results indicate at least four incumbents were defeated.

Five state executive incumbents filed for re-election. Of those five incumbents, none were defeated.

In the state Senate elections, 134 incumbents filed for re-election to 155 seats. At least one did not advance to the general election. Meanwhile, in the state House elections, 466 incumbents competed for re-election to 545 seats. Three lost their bids, but this number may grow as results are finalized.

These primaries were the 39th through the 42nd to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primaries will be held on August 18 in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming.

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