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If There's No Election Night Winner, Don't Panic

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 13: A voter fills out his ballot while early voting at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on October 13, 2020 in San Jose, California. The Santa Clara County registrar of voters is preparing to take in and process thousands of ballots as early voting is underway in the state of California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A voter fills out his ballot during early voting at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office last week in San Jose, Calif.

The pandemic has changed a lot about how we vote this year, including when we may find out who won.

It's possible — because some rules have changed, and some haven't — that Nov. 3 could come and go without a clear answer as to who the next president will be.

But despite what some people may claim, that in and of itself doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem.

In fact, official election results have never been completely tabulated and certified by the night of the election. The race results that flash across TV coverage on election night are actually projections made by media organizations based on early returns, exit polling and other data.

This year, those sorts of projections, as well as the unofficial tabulations from the states themselves, may take a little longer.

Here's why.
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