The Home Stretch

The election is two weeks away. But when will we know the winner?

The Boston Globe

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Around this time two weeks from now, polls will have closed in much of the east, and we’ll all be glued to our televisions and laptops as we wait for results to trickle in.

Of course, the pandemic has added a wrinkle to this year’s returns, and depending on the state, there’s a chance that we won’t immediately learn mail-in ballot or early voting results. That’s important because as many as 80 million Americans may vote early this year.

While you could can predict the outcome of presidential election in places like Massachusetts or New York right now, you probably want to look to the swing states to decide whether you’re having an Election Night party or an Election Week bender.


Here’s a breakdown of when votes will be counted in the key states.


Absentee and mail-in ballots can be processed and counted 14 days before the election (so that started today), but results won’t come until after the polls close. That means that there’s a good chance we’ll know who wins on Election Night, unless things are too close to call.


Everyone knows Florida’s history, but the state has been processing mail-in ballots since September, and most results are expected to reported alongside the day-of voting results. President Trump and Joe Biden are running close in Florida, but we should have a decent count once polls close.


Mail-in ballots can be processed prior to Election Day, but they won’t be counted before Nov. 3. The state is not accepting postmarked ballots after Nov. 3.


Both processing and counting of mail-in ballots begins on Election Day, and officials have said the final results may not be available until Nov. 6.  


Ballots can be processed and counted two weeks before the election, but results won’t come until polls close. A federal judge ruled that mail-in ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day can be counted even if they are received after polls close (for up to seven days).


North Carolina

Ballots can be processed beginning five weeks before the election, and counting has started. The state is accepting mail-in ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day through Nov. 12.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that mail-in ballots are among the first to be reported because counting is already underway.


The US Supreme Court ruled that mail-in ballots can received up to three days after the election (as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3). The counting of mail-in ballots begins at 7 a.m. on Election Day.


Both the processing and counting of mail-in ballots don’t begin until Election Day. 

Read an important story you may have missed:

True or false:

A slew of political operatives and advocacy organizations are responding with their own campaigns to counter lies, misleading claims and conspiracy theories, creating shareable posts, videos and memes that encourage people to vote, and that provide accurate ballot and polling information and promote solidarity among Black and Latino voters. Read more.

Shut up and play:

Not anymore. Like never before in the history of sports, a well-funded movement is surging — galvanized by professional athletes, teams, and leagues — to engage citizens at every level of electoral politics. Read more.


Switching sides:

In swing states and nationally, polls have found that a majority or near majority say they are better off than they were four years ago, but they see the nation on the wrong track, and want a new president. Read more.

On mute:

Thursday’s debate might sound a little different because the Commission on Presidential Debates will mute the candidates after they give two minutes of uninterrupted responses to each topic. After that, all bets are off. But Mark Shanahan writes that it’s a good start. Read more.

Baker watch:

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday he’s “flattered” to be among a handful of Republicans reportedly being floated for a potential Cabinet spot should former vice president Joe Biden win the White House. But the governor said he intends to “at least” finish his second term, which ends in 2023. Read more.

The question you never thought you’d ask:

After a narrow Joe Biden victory in November, what happens if the president refuses to concede until the bitter end? Read more.

Where the candidates are tomorrow: 

— Joe Biden had no public events on Tuesday and has nothing on his schedule tomorrow. 

— Donald Trump hosted a MAGA rally in Erie, Pa. on Tuesday, and has another in Gastonia, N.C. tomorrow.

See the latest polls:

New York Times/Siena College nationwide poll: Joe Biden: 50 percent, Donald Trump: 41 percent

Learn something new:

— Don’t worry, you won’t have to rely on me to tell you the winner on Election Night. But if you want to learn news outlets are planning to report results, listen to Brian Stelter’s interview with Jennifer Agiesta, who oversees polling and election analytics at CNN.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.