Election 2020

What to Expect on Election Night in Massachusetts

The results of the 2020 election may not immediately be known on the night of Nov. 3

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The results of the 2020 election may not immediately be known on the night of Nov. 3, but Secretary of State William Galvin's office is providing some insight on what voters will be able to expect.

Here's what you need to know:

Ballot Processing & Tabulation

With a record amount of people voting early and by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Secretary of State's office said this year, local election officials can begin marking voters off the voter list, removing ballots from inner envelopes, and running ballots into tabulators as early as Oct. 25. The advanced processing must be done in public view though.

No official election results can be totaled until 8 p.m. on election night. That means counting doesn't take place until polls have closed, the Secretary of State's office said.

Election Night Results

Before reporting any unofficial results, the Secretary of State's office said local election officials must total the following:

  • Ballots cast in person on Election Day
  • Ballots cast in person during the early voting period
  • Mail-in absentee and early ballots received on or before Nov. 3

Post-Election Results

Domestically-mailed ballots received after Election Day must be held by local election officials so they can be counted after 5 p.m. on Nov. 6, the Secretary of State's office said.

The ballots must have been postmarked by Nov. 3 and the counting of the ballots must be done in public. Election officials said the counting session must also be posted at least three days in advance.

Most communities are expected to hold counting sessions between Nov. 6 and Nov. 9, election officials said.

Before clerks count mail-in ballots, they must cross-reference voter lists to see if anyone voted in person. If so, those ballots will be rejected.

Secretary of State William Galvin is asking for more money to ensure mail-in voting goes smoothly.

Overseas Ballots

For anyone who mailed a ballot from overseas, it must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 to be counted, election officials said.

Overseas ballots will be counted at a public meeting of the Board of Registrars no earlier than 5 p.m. on Nov. 13, the Secretary of State's office said.

Election Night Reporting

Unofficial election results will not be reported by the Secretary of State's office. This is because the office said, "local election officials are not required to report unofficial results to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Elections Division."

Certain media organizations like the Associated Press may provide unofficial election results due to their "long-standing relationship with the Massachusetts City and Town Clerks' Associations."

Final Certification

The final certification of Massachusetts' election results won't come until up to 15 days after local election officials transmit the certified results to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Elections Division. From there, the governor and council certify the final state results.

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