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What we are likely to know on Election Night

Be patient on Election Night. Counting returns might take longer than any time in recent political history.

With a record number of absentee and mail-in ballots cast this year and a hodgepodge of laws on when states begin counting those votes, the Associated Press and the TV networks might not be able to call the 2020 presidential election as quickly as times past.

Here are some key things to know about counting and calling the race as Election Day nears:

States vary widely on how quickly absentee ballots are processed and counted.

Though 48 began processing ballots already, four states -- including the crucial states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – don’t begin until Election Day.

Networks are getting voter-return info from different providers – for the first time.

AP and Fox News broke off from a national election consortium to develop their own systems for counting the vote. ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN remained in the old group, using a different tabulation.

This could lead to different outlets "calling" a state for Trump or Biden before its competitors do.

Election night running totals could differ from final tallies.

Given the record volume of absentee and mail-in votes, it’s possible President Donald Trump could be initially leading in some states only to be surpassed by Joe Biden when all the votes are counted. Or vice versa.

Down-ballot contests could take a long time to finalize.

Not being the same priority as the presidential race, contests for Congress and State Legislature could take a while as officials sort through absentee and paper ballots.

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