As polls closed in on Tuesday, all eyes are on key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Authorities recorded a surge in the mail-in ballot due to Covid-19 and they take longer to than ballots cast at the polling stations. The early results from Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are likely to create misleading margins initially.

Why Does Mail-In Ballot Take Time To Tabulate?

Counting of mail-in ballot votes requires lots of manpower and polling staff have to remove the ballots from envelopes, check for any errors and classify them. Then the ballots are scanned when the polls officially close.

Generally, the mail-in ballots are processed weeks before Election Day in the states such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Nevada. This allows those states to have a head start in the counting of votes, consequently declaring results quickly. Florida, a key battleground state with 29 electoral votes, began counting ballots 30 days before the election. Experts believe Florida results should be expected hours later after the polls are closed.

Election 2020
Representational picture Flickr/Marco Verch

Three Key Battleground States

In Pennsylvania, half of the vote is expected to arrive through the mail. The state started counting mail-in and absentee ballot only on 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday. Moreover, the deadline for ballots to arrive is on Nov. 6. While some counties in the state will tabulate in-person ballots first, others will count mail-in ballots first. So, it will be beyond Friday before Pennsylvania declares its results.

Cities in Michigan started counting mail-ballots 24 hours before Election day. However, according to analysts, that was not enough for a head start. The election workers will count in-person votes initially, which political observers say will lean heavily towards President Donald, and then tabulate mail-in ballots — expected to be in favor of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

In Wisconsin, vote counting stretched into the early morning as election workers. Meagan Wolfe, the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said on Tuesday that voters should not be concerned if unofficial results were not available on Wednesday.

"If unofficial results aren't available until the next morning, it does not mean that something went wrong," Wolfe said. "It means that election officials are doing their jobs, and their job is to make sure that every valid ballot gets counted."