November 3 is fast approaching, but it’s very likely the outcome of many political races won’t be known on election day – or possibly even election month. Strategists at Charles Schwab explains why voters should expect delays.

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Key quotes

“To process mail-in ballots, election officials must open each ballot by hand, remove and unfold the ballot, verify each ballot signature and other details with witnesses from both parties present, and then insert each ballot into a voting machine to be tabulated. This additional processing time, coupled with expected increases in the number of mail-in ballots, could delay the reporting of results. What’s more, mail-in ballots are more likely to be disputed than ballots cast in person.”

“In most states, election officials can begin processing mail-in ballots before election day, either as soon as they come in or on a specific date designated by state or local law. However, 11 states currently don’t allow officials to open ballots until election day itself, which could further draw out results if mail-in ballots pile up in these states. Among them are Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – three critical battleground states that determined the 2016 outcome. It’s likely that the counting process in these states, in particular, will take several days.”

“Both sides are assembling an army of lawyers ready for legal challenges so not only will the counting take longer, but then there will be legal challenges that will have to go through the courts, all of which could delay states trying to finalize their ballot counts.”

“The time between election day (November 3) and the state certification deadline (December 8) is the important period to watch. As long as results remain unclear, however, markets might react to the potential uncertainty.”