It’s likely that in Sun Belt battlegrounds such as Florida, North Carolina and Texas, the first totals to be reported will be huge tranches of mail and early in-person ballots that break heavily for Joe Biden, creating a “blue mirage” in the early tallies that could be erased once Trump-friendly in-person Election Day votes are tabulated.

But the opposite could be true in northern battlegrounds such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where officials are not permitted to begin processing mail ballots until the day of the election (or, in Michigan’s case, the day before). In those states, a “red mirage” of Trump-heavy Election Day votes could linger until larger metro counties report huge tranches of early ballots later in the evening.

The lesson: it will be easier than ever for initial vote tallies to lead untrained eyes astray. So patience is essential for the media and the public, and it’s critical to wait for experienced, statistically driven network decision desks to make projections.