While Americans are used to learning who is elected president on election night, the election process is not actually completed that quickly.

Presidential winners are usually announced on election night because news organizations like Fox News or The Associated Press have enough voting information to accurately project a winner.

But this election cycle was different.

As polls closed and 2020 presidential election results started to pour in on Tuesday, voters were searching: Who is going to win, President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden?

But with no clear winner announced Wednesday morning, voters begun searching: When will we know who won the election?

Before these questions can be officially answered, you have to understand a bit about the voting process. Here's what you need to know.

Waiting on the battleground states

As of Thursday morning, the race appears to hinge on four key battleground states that are still too close to call, including Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia, as well as familiar swing state — Pennsylvania. Two other key swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin, were called for Biden by midday Wednesday.

With the race ever so tight, when will these races be called?


Biden holds a narrow lead over Trump in the state with 75% of its ballots reported. The state's election division announced Wednesday morning that no more results would be updated until noon ET on Thursday. Votes that still need to be counted include mail-in ballots received on Election Day. 

North Carolina, Georgia

Trump is leading over Biden with 94% of the votes reproted in North Carolina and 98% tallied in Georgia.

While Georgia was expected to finish counting ballots in the longtime Republican stronghold on Wednesday, no winner had been announced as of Thursday morning. But the count in North Carolina, where ballots can be mailed on Election Day and received up to nine days later, could take longer to finish if the margin remains narrow.


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday morning that the Keystone State has more than 1 million mail-in ballots to count. While Trump has held the lead into Thursday morning, Biden has begun to close the gap with 89% of the votes counted.

Officials have previously said they expect most votes to be counted by Friday, Nov. 6.

Michigan, Wisconsin

With nearly 100% of votes reported in both states, Biden has held a slim lead over Trump. The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit in Michigan to observe ballot counts and has promised to request a recount in Wisconsin.

When will we know the election results?

The time and date we know the official results of the 2020 election depends on a variety of factors. First, each state will continue to count the popular vote and certify the results in the days — and even weeks — after Election Day.

States have varying deadlines on when they meet to certify the results.

For instance:

  • Delaware’s deadline is two days after Election Day.
  • New York and California will certify results more than a month later on Dec. 7 and 11, respectively.


After states certify their results, the electors of the Electoral College will convene on Dec. 14 in their respective states to cast one ballot for president and one for vice president.

Those results are then delivered to the Capitol, where on Jan. 6, 2021, the Senate and House of Representatives will meet for a joint session in the House chamber to count the electoral votes.

When the votes have been counted and one ticket has received a majority of 270 or more electoral votes, the vice president, who presides as president of the Senate, will announce the results.


Those results “shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President.”

With the results official, the winning ticket will be inaugurated as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2021.

Fox News' Megan Henney contributed to this report.