Americans will likely not find out who wins the 2020 presidential race on election night, experts have predicted.
As the US struggles to get to grips with a restructured voting system more heavily reliant on mail-in voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many fear that underprepared states may become overwhelmed with ballots and counts could take days to complete.
“There is no chance that we will know on election night the full vote total in Michigan,” Marc Elias, an election lawyer with prominent Democratic clients, told NBC News.
“Neither Michigan nor Pennsylvania have a history of large numbers of absentee ballots being cast. And Michigan law prohibits the absentee ballots from even starting to be counted until polls are closed.”
The lengthy process of counting absentee ballots could be set to delay the announcement of the result way past election day.
“People should expect that in November there are going to be absentee ballots and mail ballots that are counted well into the evening and in the days that follow,” Mr Elias told the broadcaster.
Election procedure uncertainty comes amidst a painful time for the US as the pandemic continues to escalate in many areas of the US and the country faces prolonged civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.
Mail-in ballots are predicted to soar to historic levels due to the coronavirus, potentially into the millions, with many Americans hesitant to wait in long lines to cast votes in person due to health risks.
“It’s going to be a huge increase,” Matthew Weil, the director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Centre, a think tank based in Washington, told NBC News.
“If they can’t even start until Election Day or after the polls close, it’s going to be a long wait from two pretty key swing states in determining the outcome.”
In the run-up to the in November election, many states have already experienced issues with adjusting their voting systems during democratic primaries to cope with Covid-19.
At the primary election in Georgia last month, some voters reported long delays and queues while waiting to cast their vote at polling stations which officials have labelled as the fault of staffing issues and coronavirus health concerns.
The state also reportedly encountered strain within its absentee voting system as a result of the high volume of ballots.
President Trump has frequently expressed his opposition to the widespread use of mail-in ballots, having previously claimed that if elections were to go ahead with measures to make absentee voting more accessible that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again."
The president and other Republicans have also frequently expressed fear that the use of all absentee ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, despite Mr Trump having used the system himself.
“MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE. IT WILL ALSO LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY. WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR NATION”, the president tweeted last month.
NBC News reported that a recent study by Stanford University found that mail-in voting had no net benefit to one party’s turnout or vote share over the other.