Focusing on Election Day as a critical event is similar to focusing on a due date when you’re pregnant: it’s not likely that we’ll know the outcome on that day.
State legislatures and local election administrators have stepped up to meet the challenges of administering an election during a pandemic, making it easier for citizens to vote without taking on health risks. When governments make it easier for people to vote, more people vote. Turnout in 2020 may break records, and many more voters than usual are opting to vote by mail.
Ballots returned by mail take longer to process than ballots cast in person. For this reason, Americans may have to wait a bit longer than usual to learn which candidate has won the election. But our appetite for knowing the ending should not overwhelm our determination to get the count right.
In the US, we do not hold a national election, we hold thousands of state and local elections, each with their own rules, design, and procedures. Some states are set up to count ballots more quickly than others. Thankfully, it’s harder to hack a decentralized process, but it also creates uncertainty and confusion among an anxious population.
Democracy is worth protecting because it’s the only system of government humans have invented that provides the most rights and freedoms to the most people, and elections are a foundational feature of a democracy. The results are worth waiting for, even if they take a few extra days.