The people who run American elections have a special prayer, according to Professor Nate Persily, Co-Director of the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project.
"Oh God, whatever happens, please don't let it be close," Persily said.
And despite polls showing that the 2020 US election isn't shaping up to be particularly close, it's still generating the same heightened anxiety of one that is coming down to the wire.
Partly that is the shock result of the 2016 US election, partly a President who has refused to say he'll accept the result and has sown the seeds of distrust in the democratic process, and partly it is the fact that just like everything else in 2020, the pandemic has changed what that used to be "normal".
The melting pot of uncertainty has US media warning that election day might not be a single day. Some are talking about an election month.
The US election is on November 4 AEDT. But when are we likely to know the result?
We'll know quite a bit on election day
Persily said we'll know one thing for sure a couple of hours after polls close on election day (most are closed by 1:00pm AEDT).
He said many states will likely return clear results on election night.
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
- Lots of non-battleground states
"Based on the results in those states, we will have a good sense of how President Trump is doing this year as compared to four years ago," Persily said.
Basically, while we might not know who won, within a few hours there will be enough information for experts to tell us if this is a good night or a bad for Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
Executive Director of the Center of Election Innovation and Research, David Becker, said the "most likely" outcome right now is that we will know who has won the presidency sometime in the evening of November 4 AEDT.
Some things we won't know for a while
"There might be other races, certainly Senate races and definitely Congressional races where we may be waiting days and yes, even weeks in some cases due to the large number of mail ballots," Becker said.
So, control of the Senate in particular, which could come down to one or two states, might be something that we won't know for a few days.
And yes, there is the real possibility that the presidency could fall into that scenario too.
"If any state is decided by 500 votes, as Florida was in 2000, it's going to take a long time to get to that point where we can decide it. If it's the single state that decides the presidency we won't know the presidency for some time," he said.
Persily said that if some states are close, the counting of absentee ballots and mail ballots plus the potential for lawsuits to arise because of them, means that we could be in for the "long haul".
It's a little bit of a "we don't know what we don't know" kind of situation right now. But Persily said that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"We should be cautious and be patient. Assume that it will take several days or maybe a week to know who the winner is," he said