It typically takes weeks for counties to process and count all of the ballots. Elections officials have approximately one month to complete their extensive tallying, auditing, and certification work (known as the official canvass).
This election features a significant expansion of vote-by-mail ballots. Every active, registered voter was sent a vote-by-mail ballot. The time for ballots to arrive to county elections offices has also been extended. Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the county elections official no later than seventeen days after the election will be processed and can be counted. For prior elections, vote-by-mail ballots had to arrive no later than 3 days after Election Day. In processing vote-by-mail ballots, elections officials must confirm each voter's registration status, verify each voter's signature on the vote-by-mail envelope, and ensure each person did not vote elsewhere in the same election before the ballot can be counted.
Other ballots that are processed after Election Day include provisional ballots (processed similar to vote-by-mail ballots), conditional voter registration provisional ballots, and ballots that are damaged or cannot be machine-read and must be remade by elections officials.
The Unprocessed Ballots Report (PDF) features unofficial county updates on the number of outstanding ballots that still need to be processed during the official canvass. This information is required to be reported by county elections officials on the second day after Election Day and updated report is required on any day the official publicly releases updated election results.
State law requires county elections officials to report their final results for presidential electors to the Secretary of State by December 1, 2020, and all other state contests by December 4, 2020. The Secretary of State has until December 11, 2020, to certify the results of the election. For the most up-to-date vote counts before the statewide certified results are published, you may contact a county elections office directly.