We usually know what to expect on any given presidential Election Day. After all, they happen every four years. But this is the first election in our lifetime to occur during a global pandemic, and there have already been significant changes to the electoral process as more voters plan to mail in their ballots than ever before. How will that change our quintessential American tradition of watching the results roll in on election night? 

Today, the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast launches At the Polls, a weekly mini-series on this election and all things voting. In the first episode, At the Polls host and ACLU voting rights lawyer and organizer Molly McGrath talks about what to expect this year with election law scholar Rick Hasen and election administrator Rachel Rodriguez.

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The big question this year is how long it may take to get the results. On a typical Election Day, TV networks report results bit by bit until finally declaring a winner the same night. This year it will likely take much longer. Mail-in ballots take longer to process and count, and many states don’t start to count them until Election Day. A delay on election night could mean that ballots are still getting counted, and that the process is working like it should. There’s also bound to be some litigation and maybe even a recount.  

The last time we saw a lag in declaring the winner was two decades ago, when it took 36 days to declare George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore after a hotly contested recount in Florida. While we don’t yet know how long it will take this year, what’s certain already is that Election 2020 will be one for the history books. 

Listen to the full kickoff episode of At the Polls and subscribe to learn more about what to expect on Election Day 2020 — in the courts, in the media, and on the ground. 

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