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Will there be results on election night?

Posted at 5:40 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 18:35:17-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — At 6 p.m. on November 3rd, the polls in Kentucky will officially close, and the ballots will be counted.

"We don't even count the results until the polls close," explained Secretary of State Michael Adams. "We process the ballots as they come in, but we don't hit the button that tells us the count until the polls close."

Kentucky typically shares its results with the country quickly because in-person votes are stored on machines, and the numbers don't take long to tabulate. The 2020 primary was different because many of Kentucky's votes came through absentee ballots, which took some counties days to count after Election Day.

But on November 3rd, Kentucky's Secretary of State expects to have most of Kentucky's results available.

The state has already processed more than 1.1 million votes. According to data collected by the State Board of Elections, 632,862 people have voted early in-person, and 499,768 of Kentucky's 655,423 absentee ballots have been returned as of Monday.

"All the in-person votes will be counted. That will be 70% of the vote. Most of the absentees will be counted, so that will be most of the remaining 30%," estimated Adams. "So, I think we'll be at 85% - maybe even 90% - of the vote counted on election night. We'll be way ahead of the rest of the country."

Experts agree that Kentucky will be ahead of the rest of the country.

"I don't think in Kentucky we'll have as much difficulty counting the vote," said Dr. Anne Cizmar, a political science professor at Eastern Kentucky University. "We have a smaller state population than some of those other states. We've also had quite a bit of absentee voting already occurring - and early voting as well. So, I think we'll be able to come in with our results pretty early in the evening."

However, other states - like the swing states in this election - may not have all their votes counted for a while.

"In states that are incredibly competitive, I think we'll have vote-counting late into the evening," said Cizmar. "It may even take a few days to figure out who for sure won those elections in those states - to certify those results."

That means the country may not know who won the presidency on election night. If that happens, it won't be unique. Cizmar points to the Bush-Gore race in 2000 as an example. 20 years ago, the country had to wait until Florida's results were counted.

"We needed to know Florida's electoral college vote outcome really to know who won the presidency," said Cizmar. "In that case, we didn't know for weeks, in fact, who would be president of the United States."