Going into Election Day, more than half of the voters in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia already voted. But elections officials warn that does not mean there will be quick or even complete results Tuesday night.
Elections officials are all planning to release in-person Election Day results shortly after the polls close, but those won't be close to complete this year, since at least 2.5 million voters in our area used mailed ballots instead.
For weeks, workers have been scrambling to inspect and open the envelopes and feed those ballots into the machines to be counted.
"We should be in pretty good shape. I wouldn't say all of them will be counted, but a vast majority of them," said Virginia Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper.
Piper expects most of the counties to have most of their mailed ballots scanned in before the end of the day Tuesday.
Virginia Election Results Plan
Virginia polls close at 7 p.m. Election Day results will be released as they are known. Workers will continue scanning in mailed ballots.
At 11 p.m., Virginia tabulates/releases all early voting (in-person) and all mailed ballots scanned in thus far.
As of Monday, fewer than 190,000 mailed ballots statewide had yet to be returned. If Virginia ballots are postmarked by Tuesday, they have until noon on Friday to arrive.
"Some localities may have a whole lot of absentee ballots, and it could be Saturday, Sunday or even Monday before they finish tabulating all of those," said Piper.
In the District and Maryland, mailed ballots postmarked by Election Day have 10 days to arrive.
"It's possible that we won't have a sense of the results election night because of the volume that are left to come," said Maryland State Board of Elections Deputy Administrator Nikki Charlson.
Maryland Election Results Plan
Maryland polls close at 8 p.m. Early voting will be released, and mailed ballots counted so far will be released. Election Day results will follow as they are known.
As of Monday, Maryland had approximately 366,000 mailed ballots yet to be returned.
Washington, D.C., Election Results Plan
The District is facing an even greater challenge, since it mailed a ballot to every registered voter, whether they requested one or not.
"It'll probably be late, but we're going to try to do the best that we can to to wait as long as we can to make sure that we have some significant numbers to report," said D.C. Board of Elections Chairman Michael Bennett.
The District will know who has voted in person but will not know how many of the remaining mailed ballots could be on their way.
"The earlier we get the mail-in ballots back in, the better off we're going to be relative to being able to have numbers," said Bennett.
Election results are never certified until days later because of those late mailed ballots. But this year, there are a lot more of them and they could affect close races.
Elections officials warn the apparent winner Tuesday might not necessarily be the final winner as the mailed ballots are counted.
Democrats have tended to vote early and by mail, while Republicans tend to wait for Election Day.
The bottom line is, if you want to see the local results as they come in, plan on staying up late Tuesday night. National results could take days or even weeks.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.