When Will We Know The Winner? Time Frames For 6 Key States

Voters cast ballots at the Park Tavern polling station on Tuesday in Atlanta. Nearly 95% of Georgia's estimated ballots have been reported, but metro Atlanta is currently the holdout area.
Voters cast ballots at the Park Tavern polling station on Tuesday in Atlanta. Nearly 95% of Georgia's estimated ballots have been reported, but metro Atlanta is currently the holdout area.
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Updated at 12:39 p.m. ET.

The United States is waking up the morning after Election Day not knowing who will be president for the next four years. That is not unprecedented or even rare, and with a slew of mail-in ballots to process, several key states are still working to finish counting.

The Associated Press has yet to make a call in the swing states of Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

President Trump has baselessly planted doubts about the integrity of mail ballots counted after Election Day. But those ballots are valid votes: They count, although it may take some time before they're reported.

Let's break down the timelines ahead by state:

Georgia (16 electoral votes)

Nearly 95% of Georgia's estimated ballots have been reported. Metro Atlanta is currently the holdout area — a populous region that's likely to be strong for Joe Biden, who is narrowly trailing Trump in the state.

Of the state's 159 counties, Fulton is the only one that had not reported its complete results as of Wednesday morning, according to the secretary of state's website. Neighboring DeKalb is now listed as having completed its count.

The tally doesn't yet include all absentee or provisional ballots.

Fulton County officials said that while the majority of votes would be reported Tuesday night, "Absentee ballot tabulation will continue in coming days." The county had previously said it plans to complete its processing by 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

Officials say thousands more ballots arrived on Election Day, either through the mail or at drop-off boxes. Georgia law allows officials to count absentee ballots as they come in, but counties make their own plans on scanning ballots early.

Michigan (16 electoral votes)

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told reporters Wednesday morning that about 100,000 ballots remain to be counted and she is "optimistic" an unofficial count will be ready by the end of the day.

"Ballots are still being counted in our largest jurisdictions including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Kalamazoo and numerous other Michigan cities and townships," she said.

The vote tally is taking a while because of when the state law allowed election officials to start processing and then counting mail ballots. Unlike some other states, where election workers could begin the processing and, in a few cases, the counting days or weeks in advance, Michigan could not.

Counties with populations over 25,000 could begin processing ballots, doing work such as opening envelopes and checking signatures, on the Monday before Election Day. Smaller counties could not begin until Election Day.

As of late Wednesday morning, Michigan was reporting results from 70 of its 83 counties. At that time, Wayne County, which includes the Democratic stronghold of Detroit, said 68% of its precincts had reported results. The county's unofficial tally showed Biden with a large lead, with 489,165 votes to 231,845 for Trump.

"I'm optimistic that by the end of the day the majority of our ballots will be tabulated and we'll be much closer to having a full, if not a full and complete, unofficial result to announce at that point," Benson said Wednesday morning.

Nevada (6 electoral votes)

The Nevada secretary of state's elections division says it will give its next update on results Thursday morning. As of now, the state has completed 67% of its tally, with Biden having a slight edge.

"Counties have until Nov. 12 to finish the count," Jennifer Russell, a spokeswoman for the Nevada secretary of state's office, tells NPR.

As of early Wednesday morning, all in-person votes — both early and from Election Day — are now counted, along with all mail ballots through Nov. 2, the elections division said.

Still uncounted: mail ballots received on Election Day and through the next week, along with provisional ballots.

"Ballots outstanding is difficult to estimate in Nevada because every voter was sent a mail ballot," the elections division said. "Obviously, not all will vote."

North Carolina (15 electoral votes)

About 94% of the expected vote has been counted in North Carolina, but the race between Biden and Trump remains tight, tilting toward the incumbent.

North Carolina was able to process mail ballots in advance, so election officials there aren't sorting through the bulk of ballots like in some other states. But in North Carolina, mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 can be received and added to the total numbers until Nov. 12. If the presidential election remains close, the race could remain undecided for days.

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

As of Wednesday morning, the state's vote reporting process was only 64% complete. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Wednesday that more than 50% of the state's mail-in ballots have been counted, but there are still millions left and there may not be complete results from the state before the end of the day.

Boockvar has said previously the "overwhelming majority" of ballots will be tallied by Friday.

Pennsylvania law requires officials to wait until the morning of Election Day to process mail-in ballots. The state accepts ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 as long as they arrive within three days.

"Make no mistake our democracy is being tested," Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"We all will vigorously defend against any attempt to attack [the] vote in Pennsylvania. And every Pennsylvanian can have confidence in the outcome of this election. "

Counties are taking a patchwork approach to counting absentee ballots. Seven said they would not begin processing ballots until Tuesday night or even Wednesday. The secretary of state's office encouraged those counties to move up their timelines.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports that, as of late-morning Wednesday, election officials in Philadelphia had counted about 186,000 of the city's ballots. Philadelphia is the state's largest city, with 350,000 to 400,000 mail ballots, and it could be days before they are all counted.

"We'll be done as soon as we're done," Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley said. "That's how elections work – we count the votes and we end up at the end."

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)

"Most of the ballots have already been counted. There may be a few small places that still haven't reported," Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney told NPR Wednesday morning. The state has counted 95% of the estimated vote, The Associated Press says.

Chief elections official Meagan Wolfe had warned that it would "likely be Wednesday before all the unofficial results are in." She added that the delay doesn't signal a problem — only that officials are ensuring every ballot is counted.

"There is no cutoff or deadline to finish counting," Wolfe said in an update Tuesday night. "They must keep counting until the job is done right. So be patient."

Wisconsin is one of six states that don't allow election officials to start processing absentee ballots before Election Day.

It could also take time for Wisconsin results to be reported through the media, because it doesn't have a statewide system for reporting unofficial results on Election Day. Many unofficial results come from The Associated Press and other news outlets, which compile unofficial Wisconsin results at the county level. Some 39 counties participate in a centralized system, helping to ease that process.

Wolfe will give an update on her state's count at 11:30 a.m. local time Wednesday.

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