ballot countdown
October 29, 2020

At least one swing state may be spared the political controversy of a late absentee ballot count seemingly changing its 2020 election results.

Every U.S. state is receiving a boatload more mail-in ballots than it usually does during a typical election year, and four of them — Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — won't even be able to open those ballots until Election Day. This almost guarantees a delayed result from those four states, but Wisconsin is confident it'll have everything set by the morning after the election, local election officials tell NBC News affiliate WTMJ Milwaukee.

Wisconsin's electoral votes will be critical in determining the winner of the 2020 election, as the previously Democratic state went for President Trump in 2016. County clerks all say they'll count ballots nonstop until they're finished, and expect results at 9:30 p.m. at the earliest. Waukesha County, the third most populous in the state, says its count will wrap around 3 a.m. And Milwaukee County, home to nearly a million people, expects to be done by 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) is preparing for a long haul, including pushback from Republicans. The state accepts all absentee ballots that were mailed before Election Day even if they arrive later, meaning a count to finalize the swing state's results could take days. Shapiro fears Republicans may use these late ballots "as a hook to challenge all mail-in ballots," and a court may then halt the count of all absentee ballots while the challenge is considered, he told The Washington Post. So to prepare, Pennsylvania officials will separate late-arriving ballots in hopes of avoiding a total counting shutdown.

Find when every state expects to count its absentee ballots at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

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