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Vision 2020: How Does Early Voting Work in The US Election?

Voters wait in line to cast ballots in the general election, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, at the Office of Elections satellite location in Spotsylvania, Va., on the first day of the state's 45-day early voting period. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

Voters wait in line to cast ballots in the general election, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, at the Office of Elections satellite location in Spotsylvania, Va., on the first day of the state's 45-day early voting period. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

All states allow some form of early voting, be it by casting votes in person at polling places, voting by mail, or both.

What states vote early and when are these votes counted?

All states allow some form of early voting, be it by casting votes in person at polling places, voting by mail, or both. But each state has its own rules and timelines on when this occurs. Some started in September. Some dont start until mid-October, or even closer to Election Day on Nov. 3.

Just as there are 50 different timelines for early voting, there are 50 different ones for how the votes are counted. Some states allow the processing of mail-in ballots the often time-consuming flattening and opening of envelopes, verifying signatures and sorting ballots into the correct piles for tabulation to begin as many as three weeks before Election Day. Some only allow it to begin on Election Day itself, which can lead to a chaotic and lengthy count.

That's the process in several key swing states. Democrats fear this will delay the count of mail-in ballots, expected to heavily favor Democrats, and give President Donald Trump a phony early lead that he could seize on to declare the election over.


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