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What to know for election night: When polls close, ballot counting and results

When do the polls close? When should we expect election results? Here are some answers to the most common election questions.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The 2022 Midterm Election concludes Tuesday night, and it's a high-stakes political moment in both Oregon and Washington, where multiple unusually competitive races have emerged this year at all levels of government.

The presidency might not be on the ballot, but the race for Oregon governor and several high-profile U.S. House and Senate races are all in play, and a handful of Oregon ballot measures — plus one in Portland — could be enormously consequential for the future of the city and the state.

For a more detailed look at the biggest races, check out KGW's 2022 top races guide

Here's a look at what to expect heading into election night, including the biggest races on the ballot, where things stand in terms of voter turnout, and where and when to look for results as ballots begin to be counted:

Q) When do polls close?

Oregon and Washington are both vote-by-mail states, so there aren't any physical polling places — but there are ballot drop boxes, and the cutoff to submit ballots at those locations is 8 p.m. Tuesday. You can look up your nearest drop box online for Oregon or Washington.

Check out KGW's guide for how to make sure your ballot gets submitted properly  

Q) Where and when can I find election results?

Results from around Oregon and Washington can be found on each state's Secretary of State websites. Initial results are posted within a few minutes after the polls close at 8 p.m.

Click here for Oregon 

Click here for Washington

The totals will be updated later Tuesday evening and again in subsequent days, usually at least once every 24 hours  

KGW will compile up-to-date results for all Oregon races and those in Southwest Washington at kgw.com/elections, and be sure to keep an eye on kgw.com for all the latest headlines as we head into election night.

Q) How long does the counting usually take?

In 2020, it took until Friday afternoon, three days after Election Day, for 90% of ballots to be counted in Oregon. 

The recent change in the law in Oregon that allows votes to be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day (and received later) could delay counting of some votes. Washington has had the option to mail ballots on Election Day in place for years. 

Q) Will we know the winners on election night?

The election night results are not final, and vote tallies will continue to be updated in the following days as more ballots are counted, which can — and sometimes does — lead to reversals of fortune for candidates.

For example, election night results in Washington's August top-two primary put Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in first and incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in second, but Republican Joe Kent got a larger share of votes counted in subsequent days and eventually overtook Herrera Beutler.

RELATED: What to expect on election night: Some races may take longer to call

Q) But don't we sometimes know the winners quickly?

News organizations will often "call" races or announce "projected" winners, typically when one candidate achieves a large enough lead that it would be mathematically impossible for the other candidate or candidates to make up the difference from the remaining ballots to be counted.

Some races may be called on election night, while others may remain too close to call for days. Individual candidates may also publicly claim victory or concede defeat if the early results don't show a close race.

When it comes to calling major races, KGW defers to the Associated Press. The AP will count votes and declare winners in 83 contested elections in Oregon, including three statewide races and six U.S. House races. In the 2020 general election, the AP reported initial results at 8 p.m. PT.

For more information on AP's approach to calling races and projecting winners, check out AP's in-depth explainer.

RELATED: EXPLAINER: How can the AP call races right as polls close?

Q) What does early turnout look like?

KGW's Evan Watson and The Story team have been keeping an eye on voter turnout in Oregon and Washington. Oregon's total stood at about 36% as of Monday morning, and Washington's stood at just under 39% as of Monday evening.

Turnout is typically lower in midterm election years, but the totals so far show Washington lagging behind even its 2018 level, where its turnout stood at 47.7% at the same time in the election cycle as the current 39% figure. Oregon's public data does not include the same kind of point-in-time comparison to 2018.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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