With wall-to-wall TV and online coverage of the presidential election, many Americans will plan to stay up late on Nov. 3 to find out who’ll be the next leader of the richest nation on Earth. But with more votes coming in by mail due to COVID-19, it’s possible that the desire for instant gratification will instead demand patience into the following days or even weeks until a winner is officially declared.

Travis Ridout.

The act of voting by mail, also known as absentee voting in some states, is nothing new, explains Travis Ridout, director of Washington State University’s School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs. But for some states, having large numbers of voters using that method is new this year.

Michael Ritter.

Technically, waiting until early December to find out who the next president will be is nothing new, explains Michael Ritter, an assistant professor in the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs.

But with increasing partisanship and political tension in the country, some worry that people won’t recognize that should the presidential race be close, it could take weeks to learn the real winner.

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