In this time of "all votes count", what happens to uncounted ballots if one person gets 270 electoral votes? So do all votes really count? Isn't the race over at that point?

  • 8
    Its the same as in every other country in the world: Until the official results have been announced, nobody "got" or "won" anything.
    – Polygnome
    Nov 5, 2020 at 20:17
  • I cannot think of any other country who has an electoral college .or a specific number a candidate must reach to win so we are not like every other country.
    – louise
    Nov 5, 2020 at 21:39
  • 1
    In virtually all jurisdictions there are other races on the ballot -- senators and congressmen, state legislators, state judges, local officials, etc. They need to be counted even after the presidential contest has been decided.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 5, 2020 at 23:49

3 Answers 3


No one actually gets 270 Electoral votes until the Electors vote in their States on December 14th. When a State or Election gets "called", that's not an official thing: it's a judgement by the news networks that, based on the officially released vote counts and other evidence (like exit polls), that candidate is almost certainly going to win that state. It doesn't have any official meaning, though.

So, even if the election is called for a candidate and the other candidate concedes, the ballot counting will continue in each state until the final count is certified by that State, allowing it to file Certificates of Ascertainment and select electors to vote in the electoral college.

You can read the gritty details of the process here: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11641

  • Also, the presidential race is not the only race on the ballots in question. Every seat in the House is up, a third of the Senate, and many local races. Those elections count, too. Nov 5, 2020 at 21:13

Officially speaking no one will get any electoral votes in this election until December 14th 2020:

Electoral College electors in each state don’t vote until Dec. 14. The electors’ votes typically align with the popular vote in each state. But not all states require the votes cast by electors to mirror the popular vote. Certificates recording the electoral vote results in each state must be received by the president of the Senate and the archivist no later than Dec. 23.
The official results of the electoral votes are sent to the new elected Congress, which is set to meet in a joint session on Jan. 6, 2021, and announce the results.

So on paper the next President will not be known until December 14th at the earliest and not confirmed until January 6th. This leaves plenty of time for states to tally up their votes and do a recount if necessary. Remember that announcing the winner on election night is a relatively recent tradition, made possible by light-speed communication. No such technology was available at the time when the Constitution was adopted and thus there's a lot of time available between the election and the official results being certified.


That someone reaches 270 electoral votes doesn't mean that the candidate won as it's only about the popular vote at the current moment, which isn't most important as people vote indirectly for president for electors who will vote for the next president. So all that is said at the moment is all about popular votes.

  1. The Electors have to vote on December 14th for the next president

December 14, 2020: Electors Vote in Their States Monday after the second Wednesday in December of presidential election years is set (3 U.S.C. §7) as the date on which the electors meet and vote. In 2020, the meeting is on December 14. Electoral college delegations meet separately in their respective states and the District of Columbia at places designated by their state legislature. The electors vote by paper ballot, casting one ballot for President and one for Vice President. The electors count the results and then sign six certificates, each of which contains two lists, one of which includes the electoral votes for the President, the other, electoral votes for the Vice President, each of which includes the names of persons receiving votes and the number of votes cast for them. These are known as Certificates of the Vote, which the electors are required to sign. They then pair the six Certificates of Ascertainment provided by the state governors with the Certificates of the Vote, and sign, seal, and certify them (3 U.S.C. §§8-10). The six certificates are then distributed by registered mail as follows: (1) one certificate to the President of the U.S. Senate (the Vice President); (2) two certificates to the secretary of state (or equivalent officer) of the state in which the electors met; (3) two certificates to the Archivist; and (4) one certificate to the judge of the U.S. district court of the district in which the electors met (3 U.S.C. §11).

  1. On January 6, 2021, the electoral votes will be officially started and it'll be known who won the election. If both candidates have the same electoral votes (269-269), the House of Representatives must enter in!

Executive Branch of US Constitution:

The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the fi ve highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice.

-> January 6, 2021: Joint Session of Congress to Count Electoral Votes and Declare Election Results Meets On January 6, or another date set by law, the Senate and House of Representatives assemble at 1:00 p.m. in a joint session at the Capitol, in the House chamber, to count the electoral votes and declare the results (3 U.S.C. §15).


January 20, 2021: Presidential Inauguration On this date, the President and Vice President are to be inaugurated. The Twentieth Amendment set the date for inaugurations as January 20, beginning in 1937. Since 1981, the ceremony has, with one exception, been held on the West Front of the Capitol. The Vice President takes the oath first, followed at noon by the President.

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