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Election 2020: Will We Know Who Won On Election Night?

There are a lot of "what ifs" going into election night. As far as the presidential race is concerned, there are several scenarios that may play out on election night.

There are several scenarios that may play out on election night. Here's what you should know.

There are a lot of "what ifs" going into election night. A lot of planning has been done among many media and results-reporting organizations to provide reliable, accurate results from the approximately 7,000 races across the U.S., and it's important to recognize that a complete picture of the outcome of all of these races may not be known right away or even within a week of November 3.

As far as the presidential race is concerned, there are several scenarios that may play out on election night. One scenario is that the winner of the presidency will be immediately known. Another is the winner will not be known for some time. Yet another is that the loser - whoever that may be - will contest the results. The presidential race is certainly the biggest unknown, and it could easily be a week or more before the winner is determined and a concession speech has been made. This will be partly determined by the number of absentee ballots to be counted in each state and each state’s laws around which - and when - absentee ballots can be counted.

NPR will continue to cover the presidential contest through its conclusion, whether that’s a day or several weeks.

Will we know the results of the Iowa Congressional races on election night?

In Iowa, it's likely that most, but not necessarily all, of Iowa’s elected offices will be decided by the end of election night. It’s possible that a few of the Iowa legislative seats may not be determined.

In 2018 an Iowa House race was contested. The winner of that seat was determined after the new legislature was sworn in (January 2019), so it can take some time for local races to be resolved. If multiple seats are not determined by the end of the night it could be a few days or more to know the balance of power in one or both of the Iowa legislative chambers.

It’s likely that Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat and House of Representatives seats will be determined by the end of election night.

Most Iowa election results should be known by 11 p.m. on November 3. The majority of national results will likely be determined over the next several days, though a clearer picture of federal level balance of power (which party has control over the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives) may be known as soon as the morning of November 4 - even if not all races have been determined.

There is, of course, the potential for other complications. If there are issues in opening and tabulating ballots or if there are technological issues preventing the transmission of poll results there may be a longer delay knowing the results of certain races and elected offices.

Iowa Public Radio relies on official results as determined by the Associated Press and, for Iowa-based races, a final confirmation by of the official results as provided by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Iowa Public Radio relies on the Associated Press for federal level results, including the presidency, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives.

Where do I find results?

Results will be available on Iowa Public Radio’s website: https://iowapublicradio.org. Results will be posted in real-time, as reported by the Associated Press.

Polls in Iowa close at 9 p.m. The first results will likely be available within a half hour of polls closing.

Results and election night analysis will also be available on IPR’s News and News/Studio One frequencies. A list of frequencies can be found here. IPR News can be listened to online as well via the IPR website, smart speaker, or the IPR app.

If any federal level races are not determined on election night, continue to visit IPR’s website. If the presidency is not determined on election night or within a week of the election, continue to visit IPR’s website for the latest vote tallies and updates.

Matt Sieren is IPR’s Digital/IT Manager