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A viewer's guide to election night

The National Vote at Home Instituteposted this handy guide to which states are likely to have results on election night, and which ones will keep the country waiting. This underscores how long it may take to get final results, days or even weeks past the election.

The states that are the closest aren't necessarily the ones that will take the longest to post results. For example, Georgia may be one of the most highly contested swing states this year, but on election night it may have results relatively quickly because of investments it has made in processing equipment, and a state law that allows processing of mailed ballots beginning 15 days before the election.

Pennsylvania, by contrast, won't be reporting results as fast, even if the winner's margin of victory ends up being wider. Pennsylvania voters have requested 2.9 million mailed-in ballots. But officials there won't be able to count ballots, or even process them, until Election Day. The Keystone State is seen by many forecasters to be the most likely tipping point in the 2020 election, and that's why we're being told to be patient and get ready for a Nov. 3 map with a lot of states that are neither red nor blue.

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The election went remarkably well. Here's how to make the next one even better.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The election went remarkably well. Here's how to make the next one even better.

We haven't yet seen evidence that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election — even with the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, the threat of foreign interference, civil unrest and greater turnout than any time since 1900. That counts as a resounding success.

Once the final tallies are certified, we need to thank the election administrators and poll workers whose heroic efforts preserved American democracy. After that, we need to assess what worked best and what needs to improve, so we can identify achievable steps to make future elections even more secure.

Based on what we know so far, here are five things that should be on the U.S. elections to-do list:

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USA map with flags
FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

Distorted U.S. democracy underscores urgency of Electoral College reform

On Dec. 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes. Barring any unforeseen outrage, a majority will vote for Joe Biden, the popular vote winner in the general election, to sighs of relief. Many may conclude the creaky Electoral College works most of the time, and that any fixes are just too hard to worry about.

That would be a mistake.

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Georgia voting stickers
Stop the presses, says appeals court, even if that means longer Georgia voting lines
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The three steps to ensure a well-run runoff in Georgia

Hold the champagne: The 2020 Election Season isn't over just yet. Neither of Georgia's Senate races resulted in a victor on Election Day, sending both contests to January runoffs that will likely determine control of the U.S. Senate. And while many folks are understandably focused on the political repercussions of these races, I'm pulling for a different candidate: democracy.

While Georgia will likely conduct a risk-limiting audit and recount of the presidential election later this month, the state appears to have done a good job administering the 2020 presidential election. As a former election administrator and expert on the integrity of elections, my assessment is there is no reason to question the integrity of the election outcome. If any concrete evidence suggesting that wrongful disenfranchisement has or will affect the accuracy of the outcome, that assessment could change. Right now, there isn't.

Regardless, these are three steps Georgia officials could take now to ensure the integrity of the state's runoff elections in January:

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Even if it's not official, Republicans should acknowledge Biden's win

Even if it's not official, Republicans should acknowledge Biden's win

The nation has a new president-elect, Joe Biden. At the same time, there is no official president-elect, because the electoral process itself hasn't yet reached that point.

How can both these assertions be true? And if they are, how are Americans supposed to understand that? Most importantly, how can Americans of opposite parties get on the same page, so that we can move forward together as one country, as our new president-elect in his impressive victory speech is urging us to do?

When it comes to ending elections, there are actually two different processes at work, and they operate on different timelines.

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What's next for U.S. democracy after the president's stress test?
Jay Cross/Flickr

What's next for U.S. democracy after the president's stress test?

In another assessment of the 2020 vote so far, Election Dissection sat down with Laura Williamson, who works on voting rights and democracy at Demos. We spoke about President Trump's election night remarks as a stress test for the United States. Williamson had plenty to say about the state of the elections and some things that need fixing after the votes are finally counted.

What was your reaction to the president?

The president's remarks and actions are a test of our ability to show up, as a people, to mass mobilize and resist his authoritarian calls to end the counting. The basis of our democracy is that we pick our leaders. It's not the president or the courts that choose. So it's a test of our ability as a people to resist what is so clearly an anti-democratic attack.

And Americans are rising to the test. We're seeing masses of people calling for every vote to be counted. They're showing up and exercising their political power. We flexed our political power one way, by voting before or on Election Day. Now we're exercising it again in a different way — showing up in the streets and demanding every eligible vote is counted.

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