Election night is finally here as the coronavirus pandemic surges on and tense legal battles determining whose votes will count and whose may not are still playing out. TIME will be streaming real-time race projections, maps and live footage from both Trump and Biden’s headquarters.
Election experts stress that regardless of what candidates say, they do not have the power to determine or call the results of the election. The responsibility of counting votes and declaring a winner falls to state and local election officials, and it may take days, or even weeks, for officials to finalize those counts. Just because one candidate may be leading early on Election Night doesn’t mean they can’t fall behind later. That’s not fraud. Counting election results takes time.
Amid the pandemic, Joe Biden has followed public health guidance and relied heavily on digital campaigning, while President Donald Trump has continued to host crowded rallies and downplay the danger of the virus. The nation has been beset by misinformation in the months leading up to the general election, often perpetuated by the president himself.
More than 96 million Americans have already voted as of Monday afternoon, according to the U.S. Elections Project, a database run by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald. That’s about 70% of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election. Of those, more than 35 million are in-person votes and more than 61 million are returned mail-in ballots. Even before Election Day, vote counts from early voting in Texas and Hawaii surpassed the states’ total vote count in 2016.
Some experts, including McDonald, are predicting a once-in-a-century turnout rate— and getting that full tally might take time. Be prepared to be patient.