When will we know the results of the election?

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

We’ve been warned for weeks now — we might not know who has won the presidential election on Election Night. Across the U.S. each state has its own rules regarding counting of absentee ballots and during this pandemic more ballots are being cast absentee, by mail, or early in-person than ever before.

In Brown County, the absentee and mail ballots (cast by township and small town [under 400 population] residents) have been arriving at the county election office since early October.

Starting on Oct. 20, two weeks before Election Day, county election workers in Minnesota were able to insert absentee and mail ballots into ballot counting machines, but not tally the votes. The total for these votes will be produced when polling places close at 8 p.m. election night, Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Brown County Auditor-Treasurer Jean Prochniak oversees the election process for the county. Prochniak said, “Brown County will be providing election results once all physical precincts have completed their work. Absentee vote totals will also be submitted to the Secretary of State at that time and appear on the website shortly after our submission.”

Vote totals reported by Brown County when they finish the process late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning (if it takes that long) will be the unofficial results. Ballots postmarked by Nov. 3, that arrive at the election office up to seven days later (Nov. 10), will be added to the total each day as they are counted.

“If voters do their part, and mail their ballots now . . . there will be little or no fluctuation in vote totals during that week,” said Prochniak. “It behooves all of us to return our ballots TODAY by using the postal service or the drop box located in the lobby of the Law Enforcement Center in New Ulm.”

Prior to mailing your ballot, review the envelope to ensure that you have signed the envelope and provided the identifying information if it is required.

Sleepy Eye School District voters should not expect to have complete results on the School Board election on Nov. 3.

Prochniak said her office was not notified of any registered write-in candidates, so they would not be tabulated in the precincts. “We will look at the scanned images on Nov. 4 and determine who has been listed for these offices,” she said.

The Secretary of State website has the following information: “The 2020 Election will be different than we are used to. The time needed to process a higher number of absentee ballots means we may not know the final vote totals on election night. Election officials throughout Minnesota will be working to get ballots counted as accurately as possible, and so will appreciate patience from the public and the news media when results aren’t available as soon as in other years.”

So, we may know who wins our City Council election on election night. In Minnesota, we may know who wins the most votes for state and national offices, including president on election night, or early Wednesday morning.

But with a variety of vote counting rules in other states, it is unlikely our country’s citizens will learn who the next president will be as soon as we hope to. For example, in neighboring Wisconsin absentee ballots are not processed in any way until Election Day.

On the other hand, in Florida, a state that the country is watching to see how the presidential election goes, mail ballots are handled much the same as in Minnesota. Florida results will likely be available election night.

Two other battleground states, Arizona and North Carolina, also allow early work on mail ballots.

Next week the Herald-Dispatch will publish local election results as available early Wednesday morning.