From The Quad City Times

When is an election officially decided?

Typically, Americans expect same-day results, especially with the presidency at stake. But it is worth remembering that what we usually hear and see in the late hours of the Tuesday following the first Monday in November are “unofficial” results. Or, more often, projections from news organizations based on near-complete results.

Usually, these “early” calls suffice to accurately tell us who won. Most elections aren’t nail-biters and there usually are relatively few problems that delay vote tabulations.

Still, counting all the “unofficial” results can take longer than a single day. And “official’ results aren’t in until a certification process takes place in the days and weeks after Election Day. These are typically formalities that draw little attention.

We make this point for a reason: As we all know, this is not a typical year.

We go into Election Day 2020 confronted by political divisions and suspicions many of us have never experienced. And, because of the pandemic, a record number of Americans are sending their ballots in by mail.

Still, this is no cause for alarm. In close elections, it’s not unusual for results to be called after Election Day. It happened in the 2016 presidential election. It happened in 2004. It happened in 1960.

It took 36 days to resolve the 2000 presidential election, though that obviously is not an experience we want to repeat.

We don’t know how long it will take to tabulate the votes in this election. But we have confidence in the election officials who are administering and overseeing this process.

What’s more comforting: There are layers of oversight aimed at scrutinizing them.

County boards and state election authorities examine the work of local registrars and poll workers in the days and weeks after an election — all before the results are stamped “official.”

There have been attempts to undermine confidence in our election process. But we believe in these procedures. They have served us well over the years, and while there are extra challenges this year, we have confidence that 2020 will be no different.

We hope that people exercise patience Tuesday night. We may not — some analysts have been saying for weeks we probably will not — know the results of some elections, including the presidential balloting, on Election Day.

That’s not ideal, but it’s still OK. It doesn’t mean something has gone wrong. Or that fraud is taking place.

What it most likely means is that election officials, confronted with an unusual election, will instead be working overtime to make sure the vote is counted accurately.

Yes, we realize some will use this moment to try to ignite havoc. Social media likely will be a particularly rich source of bile and conspiracy. The latter, no doubt, aided by foreign adversaries.

Don’t get sucked in. Be patient. Maybe turn off Twitter.

It also doesn’t hurt to remember that we are all Americans; that this will be true no matter who wins. It is what holds us together. It is true today. It will be true on Tuesday. It will be true the day after Tuesday — and for however long it takes to draw the 2020 election to a close.

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