Election results are delayed again. Get used to it.

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FILE - In this May 27, 2020, file photo, a voter drops off their mail-in ballot prior to the primary election, in Willow Grove, Pa. The civic ritual of casting a ballot has been disrupted by a global pandemic and dramatically animated by social unrest. And If the results of a frustrating, chaotic primary in Georgia are a measure, the notion of democracy itself will also be on the ballot in the November election. Congress is now considering sending $3.6 billion to states to help facilitate safe and fair elections as part of another round of relief funds to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Kentucky and New York had primaries Tuesday, but the winners of the closest races probably won't be known until next week. What's going on?

Get used to it. Slow vote counts and delayed results are a feature of elections during the pandemic and are likely to continue into the general election in November, when many election officials say that, absent a landslide, it won't be clear who won the presidential election for several days.

“Americans need to learn a little patience," said Josh Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who studies voter rights. "The fact of not knowing who won right away is the process actually working.”


In short, more Americans are voting by mail — heeding health officials' warnings that close contact at polling places could spread the coronavirus — and mail ballots take longer to count.

Officials have to process the ballots before they can count them. Election workers must open them, make sure the voter is registered and filled out the correct ballot, and perform any required security checks such as verifying signatures -- all the things that poll workers do when voters show up at neighborhood polling places.

Some states have laws that limit when election officials can even start this process. In New York, election officials don't start processing mailed ballots until after Election Day. Both New York and Kentucky plan to release the results of mail ballots on June 30, though don't be surprised if there are further delays.

Another factor is the postmark rules. In both Kentucky and New York, ballots are counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. That means ballots in Kentucky can arrive as late as Saturday while ballots in New York can arrive as late as a week after Election Day.