BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — As the COVID-19 pandemic changes many daily habits, it may also reshape something Americans do every four years — elect a president.
Concerns over catching the virus may leave voters casting more ballots remotely this November, Louisiana-based pollster John Couvillon suggests. But because mail-in ballots are counted manually, the public may not know who wins the 2020 Presidential Election until days after Nov. 3.
“You’re going to have these big chunks of uncounted votes that cannot be reported on Election Night,” Couvillon said. “There’s a distinct possibility that nationally we’re looking at an Election Week rather than Election Day.”
American media outlets historically project presidential winners within hours of polls closing. Major television networks declared Barack Obama the winner at 10 p.m. Louisiana time on Election Night 2008, then at 10:20 p.m. in 2012. Donald Trump emerged victorious at 1:45 a.m. Louisiana time in 2016.
Couvillon’s latest findings among Louisiana voters show a growing interest in filing ballots away from the usual Election Day crowds. Some 77,000 Louisianians voted by mail for the state’s Jul. 11 presidential primary; about 103,000 voted early at polling sites, in order to avoid longer lines.
Louisiana’s tally this fall of early or absentee voters depends largely on whether Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin extends emergency measures taken this summer. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the state’s election office to add a week to its early voting window, as well as widen the pool of voters allowed to cast mail ballots.