Trump seems to be arguing something far more radical—that all ballot counting must stop at midnight tonight, regardless of how or when the ballots were cast.
This would be a nonsensical standard, as most states don’t finish counting ballots on Election Day. In a recent report, The New York Times asked election officials whether they expect to have all votes counted by the end of November 3. Only eight states anticipate that by noon tomorrow, 98 percent of their ballots will be counted.
States could finish counting their ballots at wildly different times, and that stems from variations in state law. In Alabama, for example, absentee ballots are counted “upon closing of the polls,” at 8 p.m. eastern time. Ballots postmarked on or before November 3 that arrive after the polls close are not counted. In Illinois, by contrast, ballot counting begins at 8 p.m. on November 3, but mail-in ballots postmarked “no later than election day” that arrive before November 17 are counted. If a mailed ballot is rejected because the signature on the ballot-certification envelope and the signature “on file in the office of the election authority … do not match,” Illinois law requires that the election authority notify the voter and “state that the voter may appear before the election authority, on or before the 14th day after the election, to show cause as to why the ballot should not be rejected.” This process takes time.