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OPINION

Why Americans must be patient while votes are counted in this year's election

Trey Grayson and Robin Carnahan
Opinion contributors

 As former top state election officials, we are encouraged that many states are taking action to ensure that their citizens can vote safely and securely, despite the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

For instance, larger polling stations are being created in some areas to follow social distancing guidelines, including athletic stadiums and convention centers. In some cases, polling locations are being moved to outdoor facilities.

Experts also predict a surge in absentee voting, with many states making it easier for people to request absentee ballots this year because of the pandemic. In 2016 and 2018, roughly 25% of Americans voted using absentee or mail ballots. Many predict twice as many Americans will cast absentee ballots this year.

Several states also have increased opportunities for early in-person voting. Both in-person early voting and absentee ballots give Americans the ability to cast their ballots before Election Day responsibly and securely.

Poll worker Nicolas Northern checks a voter in at one of Fulton County's two mobile voting stations, which was at the parking lot of Morningside Baptist Church on Monday morning, Oct. 12, 2020 for the first day of early voting. The polling place was set to open at 8 a.m., but by 10 a.m. they had only been able to process one voter due to technology issues.

It’s good news that states are finding ways to adapt to today’s circumstances. However, it does take additional time to count absentee ballots compared to traditional ballots cast on Election Day.

Many ballots arrive after Election Day

Some states cannot begin to process or count absentee ballots until Election night. And in nearly 40% of states, ballots are valid if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received within a few days of Election Day. In the battleground state of Michigan, ballots are valid this year so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within two weeks of Election Day.

Regardless of whether ballots are cast in person or through the mail, every vote cast in accordance with applicable laws must count. And everyone — elected officials, journalists and voters — must be patient during this process. We know this is not an easy task, but it is imperative to declare the outcome of the election in a fair, peaceful way.

This year’s election is perhaps the most important of our lifetime.  That is why we have joined the bipartisan National Council on Election Integrity, which is sponsoring the new Count Every Vote campaign.

Every vote must count

We are laser-focused on defending the legitimacy of this election and reinforcing to Americans across the country that every vote will be counted. This is a critical mission that we, along with the more than 30 other members of the council, take seriously because we want every American to rest assured that their vote — and their voice — matters and counts.

Regardless of who the winner or loser is after Nov. 3, Americans must know that every vote — no matter how it was cast — was counted fairly.

Republican Trey Grayson is a former Kentucky Secretary of State. Democrat Robin Carnahan is a former Missouri Secretary of State. Both are members of the National Council on Election Integrity.