“The 2020 election took days to call. Could it happen again this year?”

NBC News:

After the 2020 presidential election took days to call, many states reworked how they process mail ballots with the goal of delivering results faster — and cutting off oxygen for conspiracy theories that flourished as the country waited for results. 

Election officials are optimistic that the 2024 vote count will be smoother without the many challenges the pandemic election of 2020 posed to officials. But in the event of a close race, a handful of key battleground states could keep Americans waiting well beyond Election Day yet again to learn who will be president for the following four years.

Clerks in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — two of the most closely divided states in the 2020 election — still will not be able to process any mail ballots prior to Election Day, despite efforts of state lawmakers to change the rules. That means there could again be a massive pileup of absentee ballots to sort through in those states Nov. 5, along with the in-person vote. 

And in North Carolina, a battleground state that has leaned Republican at the presidential level, changes to the state’s voter ID law and early voting process could slow the count.

While longer waits for results are not a sign of problems, experts warn they can be spun that way — as Donald Trump and his allies did in 2020.

“We could have a situation where we just have a couple of bottlenecks,” said Rachel Orey, senior associate director for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project. “That creates huge risk for the spread of mis- and disinformation when you have a couple of states in the spotlight, and you have candidates saying — well, we have results from all these other states. Why are you taking so long? There must be something wrong.”

“Ultimately, the responsibility comes down to the candidates,” Orey added. “But that’s easier said than done.”

In Wisconsin, lawmakers again blocked changes to ballot counting processes earlier this month, with the Republican-controlled state Senate holding up a bill that would have allowed election officials to start reviewing mail ballots before Election Day.  

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