The last day for voting on the Eastern Shore will be Tuesday, Nov. 7 — that is Election Day in Virginia. But we might not know that night who the winners are.
Not all the votes will be counted on election night. The totals you find that night at the Virginia Department of Elections website, elections.virginia.gov, will not be complete.
And if a race is especially close, it will be impossible for anyone — the state, the media, or the candidates — to determine on election night who won and lost.
Late-arriving absentee ballots will not be counted Tuesday — and none of the provisional ballots will be counted election night. The final tally will be completed on Monday, Nov. 13, provided there are no recounts and no tie votes.
Why is this?
In part it’s because mailed absentee ballots postmarked up to and including on Election Day are legal and must be counted. It will take a day or two for all the mail to arrive.
Further, this election allows residents to both register to vote and vote on Election Day, and steps must be taken to ensure those provisional ballots are legitimate — along with all other provisional ballots.
It’s somewhat of a tradition on the Eastern Shore to keep track of election returns as they come in. Election night parties held everywhere from restaurants to backyard garages are fashionable.
But if the races are close, there will be no clear-cut winners Tuesday night, regardless of what anyone says.
It will be like watching a football game in which viewers know the latest game score — but the final score could take days. On Wednesday morning, you will know who is ahead in local races — but if the races are close, you will not know the victor.
For candidates in close races, it will be prudent to refrain from claiming victory or conceding defeat until all votes are counted by local registrars’ offices.
To repeat, that won’t happen on election night.