MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The country is bracing for what could be days, if not weeks, before the presidential race is officially called due to record voter turnout projected for Election Day and the historic number of early voters who’ve already cast their ballots.
The possible delay is fueled by a number of factors, but it primarily revolves around battleground states like Arizona and North Carolina that can count absentee ballots days or weeks following Nov. 3.
The second most prominent factor is early voting or absentee voting. In some states, those ballots cannot be tabulated ahead of Election Day, which could generate a significant delay.
What does this mean for Alabama?
Secretary of State John Merrill expects to know the winner of each race by the end of the night. As for the record 300,402 voters who cast an absentee ballot, the state will allow circuit clerks to begin tabulating those ballots at 7 a.m. vs. noon. Counties that are not equipped to process those ballots in record fashion could have reporting delays.
In Montgomery County, it could take the majority of the day to process the nearly 30,000 absentee ballots.
“Those are always the first numbers you see,” said Montgomery Probate Judge JC Love of the absentee ballot numbers. “We’ve invested in mail-opening equipment to be able to process them quicker and we’ve got one of our bigger tabulators, it does about 4000 ballots an hour.”
Alabama is expecting nearly 3 million voters to participate in the general election.
Distancing requirements will allow fewer voters in precincts at a time. Those who are in line at the time the polls close will be able to vote.
“If it takes us actually closing that precinct 8:30 or 9 p.m. to make sure everyone who was in line at 7 p.m. was able to vote, we will do that,” Love explained.
While Alabama’s down ballot races could come down the wire, how the state will vote in the presidential race is a foregone conclusion.
Alabama is a deep red state and all nine of its electoral votes have gone to Republican presidential candidates since 1980 during Ronald Regan’s first presidential bid. Alabama is considered a safe red state for President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Voting experts remind the public that delayed returns aren’t tantamount to fraud. NBC News election law analyst Matthew Sanderson encourages voters to look beyond the rhetoric of those who are undermining the confidence of the American democratic system.
“I think that’s a major issue,” said Sanderson. “And to be honest as someone who’s helped elect a number of Republicans and knows election officials from both sides of the aisle, and knows how hard they work -- I find this rhetoric very irresponsible and ultimately offensive. When it comes down to it, this type of rhetoric about rigged elections, ultimately invites comparison to places like Russia and places like Iran. Places where they really do rig elections.”
As a reminder, no candidate is officially determined on election night, only projected winners.
Alabama will certify its election results on Nov. 23.