Now that the formal nomination of presidential candidates and their running mates has concluded, the race to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue enters what traditionally has been the most intense period of the political campaign.

In the 2016 general election, roughly a quarter of Americans who voted did so through normal mail or absentee ballots. These voting methods are expected to be even more significant this year.

Some states allow early voting in some form as long as more than 40 days before the November 3 Election Day this year. Sixteen states allow ballots to be postmarked as late as Election Day. Together, these states represent a significant minority of Electoral College votes, which suggests that a final election result might not be known when the polls formally close. This situation potentially is even more possible this year now that questions have arisen about whether the U.S. Postal Service expeditiously can handle the expected flow of ballots coming through the postal system.

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