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4 possible outcomes of the 2020 presidential election

Vote by mail
Large boxes of envelopes are seen as absentee ballot election workers stuff ballot applications at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 4, 2020. |

Mail ballots will be accepted for days after the election in many swing states

The extensive use of mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could delay the final results of the election for several days.

Many of the swing states that could decide the outcome of the election will allow mail ballots to be counted days after the election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks early and mail-in voting, more than 61 million Americans have already returned mail ballots. Additionally, nearly 30 million voters have requested mail ballots that have yet to be returned.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has compiled a list of the mail voting processes for each of the 50 states that are in effect for the 2020 presidential election. The table highlights when mail ballot processing begins and the deadline that mail ballots must be received by.

In Iowa, which has six electoral votes, mail ballots received by noon on the sixth day after the election can be counted as long as they are postmarked the day before Election Day or earlier.

The RealClearPolitics polling average for the Hawkeye State shows President Donald Trump leading his Democratic challenger Joe Biden by a margin of 1.4 percentage points, indicating a close race. According to the U.S. Elections Project, roughly 75,000 of the nearly 1 million mail ballots that have been requested remain outstanding.

In Minnesota, which has 10 electoral votes, mail ballots received seven days after Election Day will be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day. While Biden leads Trump in the RealClearPolitics polling average by a margin of 4.3 percentage points in Minnesota, the election could be much closer.

Former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton only won the state by 1.5 percentage points in 2016 despite polls predicting a much wider margin of victory. Several mayors of historically Democratic northern Minnesota cities have endorsed Trump over Biden.

In Nevada, which has six electoral votes, mail ballots without postmarks will be accepted for up to three days after Election Day. Mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day will be accepted up to seven days after Election Day. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Biden leading Trump by 3.6 percentage points in the Silver State.

In North Carolina, which has 15 electoral votes, mail-in ballots will be accepted up to nine days after Election Day if they are postmarked by Election Day. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Trump narrowly leading Biden in the Tar Heel State by 0.5 percentage points.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, roughly 500,000 of the nearly 1.5 million mail ballots requested by North Carolina voters have been submitted. The margin of victory in North Carolina in 2016 was 173,315 votes.

In Ohio, which has 18 electoral votes, mail-in ballots received 10 days after Election Day will still count as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Trump leads Biden in the Real Clear Politics polling average by a margin of 1.4 percentage points in the Buckeye State. Data from the U.S. Elections Project shows that approximately 250,000 of the more than 3 million mail ballots requested have yet to be received.

Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes, will accept mail ballots three days after the election if they are postmarked by Election Day. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Biden leading Trump by 2.9 percentage points in the Keystone State. According to the U.S. Elections Project, about 700,000 of the 3.1 million mail ballots requested have yet to be submitted. The margin of victory in 2016 was 44,242 votes.

Texas, which boasts 38 votes in the electoral college, will accept mail ballots received one day after the election. Trump leads Biden by 1.2 percentage points in the Lone Star State, according to the Real Clear Politics average of the most recent polls.

Many of the other pivotal swing states, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin require mail ballots to be submitted by Election Day. While several other states allow mail ballots to be counted days after Election Day, the results of the presidential election in those states are likely to be much more decisive than in the aforementioned swing states.

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