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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 15°C
'What's taking so long?' Here's why we're still waiting for the results of the US election
As counting continues in eight final states, here’s why the result is taking longer than in previous years.

IT’S BEEN QUITE the night.

And it’s not over yet – in several states, the counting of votes could still last a few more days.

If you were tuned in to the US election in 2016 and you can remember waking up around this time and seeing the result clearly, you might be wondering why this election is taking so long to call.

So far, all of the states that have called a result have turned the same colour – blue for Democrats, red for Republicans – as they did in 2016.

But several of the remaining states have been eyed as possible swing states that hold the potential to shift the balance between the candidates, and they’re now the states that will determine the outcome of the election as both candidates seek to reach 270 electoral votes.

This year has seen significant rates of absentee voting across states, with many voters – around 100 million – casting their ballot in advance of yesterday’s polling.

In three of the key states that remain – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – election rules meant that officials were not allowed to process absentee ballots until Election Day, or just before it.

Electoral votes are given to the winning candidate in each state, and at the start of the election, there were 538 up for grabs. 

The difference between electoral votes assigned to each state is large, ranging from 55 in California to just 3 in states like Hawaii and Delaware.

Now, with Biden on 227 and Trump on 213, there are fewer than 100 electoral votes still to be assigned – but the votes might not all be counted for a while yet.

In 2016, Trump delivered his victory speech at 2.50am following Election Day. He won Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes at 2.30am, which gave him a final push over the 270 mark. Clinton conceded around 2.35am.

Back in 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney gave his concession speech around 1am, with Obama’s re-election cemented with 332 electoral votes.

Here’s a rundown of the key states that still need to call their result in the 2020 election and why there’s a longer wait than we’ve seen before. 


Pennsylvania is likely to be the last state to finish counting its votes.

Of the states left to call a result, Pennsylvania has the largest number of electoral votes waiting for the winner – 20.

Currently, in Pennsylvania, Trump is at 55.7% and Biden is at 43% with a difference of about 7 million votes between them.

However, only around 74% of votes have been reported so far, and there’s a significant number of mail ballots that are yet to be counted, which Democrats are hoping might push them over the edge.

So far, just 19 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties (28%) have reported absentee votes.

Of the absentee votes reported, 78.4% of them have gone to Biden, and 20.7% to Trump.

Officials have said that the counting of mail-in ballots could last until Friday.

Mail-in ballots can legally be accepted and counted by the state election boards as long as they were sent in time for the election, but Republicans have filed lawsuits against the process for dealing with ballots in some areas of Pennsylvania.

Last night, Trump said that he would be going to the US Supreme Court because “we want all voting to stop”.

“So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don’t’ want them to find out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has promised that every vote cast in the state will be counted.

Tweet by @Governor Tom Wolf Governor Tom Wolf / Twitter Governor Tom Wolf / Twitter / Twitter

“Let’s be clear: This is a partisan attack on Pennsylvania’s elections, our votes, and democracy,” Wolf said, appearing to respond to Donald Trump’s push to call the election quickly.

“Our counties are working tirelessly to process votes as quickly and as accurately as possible,” Wolf said.

“Pennsylvania will have a fair election and we will count every vote.”

  • How many electoral voters? 20
  • Who took it in 2016?  Trump 48.2%, Clinton 47.5%


With 76% of votes reported, Trump currently has the lead in Michigan over Biden at 51.9% to 46.3%.

As far as absentee votes go, so far only 12 of Michigan’s 83 counties (14%). have reported their absentee votes. Of absentee votes counted so far, 66% have been for Biden and 32.6% have been for Trump.

It’s expected that a final result will take until Wednesday evening to announce.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, has made similar promises to Pennsylvania’s Wolf – that every count will be counted.

At a press conference last night, Benson said it would be ensured that “every single voter gets their vote and is counted”.

“I just came from Detroit’s absentee counting board, where thousands of highly trained election workers are working right now and worked throughout today and even yesterday and will continue to work throughout the night to efficiently tabulate nearly 180,000 absentee ballots that were voted in the city of Detroit, and that number may continue to increase as we see the return of ballots from satellite offices and drop boxes that were utilised throughout the day,” Benson said.

She said that the efficiency of counting had put the state on track to “see our results much sooner than we’d ever anticipated”.

  • How many electoral voters? 16
  • Who took it in 2016? Trump – by a hair’s width. Trump 47.3%, Clinton 47.0%


In Wisconsin, less than half a per cent stands between Biden and Trump in the current tally – 49.3% to Biden and 49.0% to Trump, with 89% of votes reported.

In Wisconsin, like in Pennsylvania and Michigan, election rules meant that officials had to wait until the election before they could start counting absentee votes that had been sent in advance.

A result is expected in Wisconsin sooner than some of the other states that still need to be called, largely because absentee ballots are expected to be counted by Wednesday morning (that’s morning time in the US).

Tweet by @Meg Jones Meg Jones / Twitter Meg Jones / Twitter / Twitter


Tweet by @Nate Silver Nate Silver / Twitter Nate Silver / Twitter / Twitter

  • How many electoral voters? 10
  • Who took it in 2016? Trump 47.2%, Clinton 46.5%


Alaska, which is an hour behind the West Coast at GMT-9, has just begun to start showing some results.

However, any updates currently coming from Alaska are based only on votes from in-person early voting and voting on Election Day.

Mail-in ballots aren’t going to be counted in Alaska for about a week.

  • How many electoral voters? 3
  • Who took it in 2016? Trump 51.3%, Clinton 36.6%

The other states still to be called are Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina.

In Arizona and Georgia, a winner is expected to be called today.

Nevada is accepting mail ballots that were postmarked by Election Day up until 10 November, and North Carolina is accepting them until 12 November (but the outcome in both states will likely be called much sooner than that).

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