Waiting and Watching: What To Expect From Election Night 2020

Join the conversation on Twitter using #ElectionNightExpectations.

The United States’ electoral culture demands instant gratification when it comes to election results. Members of the public, candidates, and journalists have come to expect that they will know the winners and losers of electoral races within hours of polls closing on election night. This year, counting ballots will likely take longer than usual due to increased reliance on vote by mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be particularly true in states that do not begin processing absentee ballots until Election Day or after polling places close on election night.

The winners of the U.S. presidential election and other hotly contested races will almost certainly not be known on November 3, and results may not be announced for several days after Election Day. Experts worry that candidates will claim victory prematurely, before all ballots are counted, and that bad actors will propagate dangerous conspiracy theories to sow public confusion and challenge electoral outcomes. It is the responsibility of government officials, members of the media, and technology platforms to set realistic expectations now for members of the public about when election results will be finalized. Preparations must also be made for pushing back against distortions of legitimate electoral procedures and vote counts.

Please join the Center for American Progress for a discussion about ballot-counting processes in November and why electoral results may not be known until well after election night. Panelists will discuss the importance of responsible results reporting by the media and technology platforms, as well as best practices for preventing the spread of misinformation on election night.

We’d love to hear your questions. Please submit any questions you have for our distinguished panel via email at CAPeventquestions@americanprogress.org or on Twitter using #ElectionNightExpectations.

Distinguished Panelists:
Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State
Adam Conner, Vice President, Technology Policy, Center for American Progress
Benjamin Hovland, Chairman, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Amanda Terkel, Washington Bureau Chief, HuffPost

Moderator:
Daniella Gibbs Léger, Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy, Center for American Progress