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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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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