There's a fair chance we won't know the winner of the presidential election tonight — or tomorrow, or the next day.
The main reason? Many states have made it easier to request a mail ballot amid the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about crowded polling places. But mail ballots generally require more time to process than ballots cast in person.
Different states, different approaches
Some states with extensive experience in using mail-in ballots have adjusted for those extra steps.
In Florida, clerks could start counting ballots 22 days before election day. In North Carolina, beginning five weeks before the election, county boards inserted approved ballots into a voting machine, allowing for a prompt tabulation on election day.
But other states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all with Republican-led legislatures and all swing states, made a conscious decision to wait so there would be no counting of mail-in ballots before today. As a result, it could take days to tally enough ballots to project a winner.
The wrangling in the states over the use of mail-in ballots has come as President Donald Trump continues to baselessly claim that mail voting is ripe for fraud.
Election day isn't always the deadline
And another wrinkle could delay the naming of a winner: in some key states, mail-in ballots can come in several days after election day and still be counted, as long as they are postmarked by then. Democrats have argued that the flood of absentee ballots and slow mail delivery in some areas make such a precaution necessary.
For example, mail-in ballots from Nevada voters are not due until November 10 if postmarked by election day. In North Carolina, mail-in ballots were not due until November 12 if postmarked by election day.
There will be legal challenges
Polling indicates that most of Trump's supporters cast their ballot on election day, but more than half of Joe Biden's backers had voted by mail.
Expect the Trump campaign's legal team to challenge the validity of many mail-in ballots cast in critical battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
"We will have a sizable contingent of lawyers who will be ready to fend off any of the shenanigans that Democrats are trying," Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign's communications director, told reporters.