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Election 2020: When do key states count mail and absentee ballots?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hours after Election Day ended, millions of votes from across the country were still waiting to be counted.

In Florida, the race was called for President Donald Trump shortly after midnight. But the race for the White House was still very much up in the air as election officials were processing millions more absentee and mail ballots than usual.

Each state has its own rules about when this process can begin. 8 On Your Side broke down the laws in critical states and took a deeper look into how those states that were still in play Wednesday process mail and absentee ballots.

Here’s what we found: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina got a head start. It wasn’t as generous as Florida’s, but still, they started to process ballots at least two weeks before Election Day.

While Arizona was familiar with vote-by-mail, Nevada saw a major expansion.

“They’re not used to having to tabulate this many ballots this quickly,” said Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick Attorney David Singer, who specializes in elections law. “In 2016, less than 10 percent of Pennsylvania voters voted by mail. In 2020, that number looks like it’s going to be above 45 percent.”

8 On Your Side asked Singer about the best practices surrounding the processing of absentee and mail ballots.

“In Pennsylvania and Michigan, by state law, they weren’t allowed to start processing mail ballots until yesterday in the morning,” Singer explained.

So by law, battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could not start to process absentee and mail ballots until on or just before Election Day. Singer says lawmakers need to consider changing their policies.

“The state legislatures, after this election, probably need to take a look at their state laws to maybe mirror more like Florida as opposed to waiting until Election Day,” Singer said.

Here’s another factor to consider, Florida’s deadline for accepting mail ballots is Election Day.

But in some states, like North Carolina, the deadline is nine days after the election. It’s being challenged in court but right now, it’s the law.

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