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Why It Might Take Longer Than Usual To Find Out Election Results

Perry township voting line

In Indiana, like many states, there's been a huge increase in the number of people voting early this year. (Lauren Chapman)

Results of the Nov. 3 election in Indiana, and across the country, may not be known for days. The counting of ballots continues after election night most years. This year’s expected surge in mailed ballots means election offices may need extra time to tally all the votes. As that occurs, some candidates may call for the counting to end and for themselves to be declared the winner. However, winners will be decided when all the votes are counted — that’s the American election system at work.  WFIU/WTIU's journalists will cover that process, and WFIU/WTIU will rely on The Associated Press and NPR to call races for the winner based on the AP’s rigorous, time-tested method.

Hoosiers are used to finding out which candidates won and lost on election night, or pretty close to it. But that likely won’t be the case this year for some races.

Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University-Fort Wayne, said it’s important to differentiate between media organizations projecting results – which typically happens election night – and county election administrators making the results official.

“Election results have never been certified on election night," Downs said. "That is something that’s driven by us as consumers of information – we want to know before we go to bed or maybe as we stay up the entire night. But the results have never been certified that quickly.”

READ MORE: Can I Vote By Mail? Here's What You Need To Know For Indiana's Elections

News outlets predict winners based on how many ballots have been counted so far. And that’s skewed this year because of so much vote-by-mail. Downs said Indiana counties can’t begin counting early voting ballots until the morning of Election Day.

“So, we still have the things we normally go through on Election Day of machines being totaled out and then being tabulated in a central system – all that stuff is still happening," Downs said. "The paper ballots have simply ramped up the amount of work that has to be done.”

Downs said delays in reporting winners is not an issue of accuracy – it’s just an issue of workload.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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