Florida counts its mail ballots early. So do Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, and Texas, among others. North Carolina and Ohio don’t start counting until Election Day, but they allow ballots to be processed starting more than two weeks before then, allowing them to quickly count votes on Election Day. And processing those votes—opening the envelopes, flattening the ballots themselves, checking them against voter lists—is the more time-consuming part of the process. In Michigan, local election officials were allowed to start doing it one day in advance, but in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, they had to wait until Tuesday morning.
“Thou shalt not open a mail ballot and prepare it to be counted ahead of Election Day” is definitely not some kind of Republican principle. It’s one they made up for these states in this election to ensure slow counting of votes expected to favor Democrats. In Pennsylvania, Republicans negotiated with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, trying to get him to accept various poison pills like banning drop boxes. Wolf said they had reached a deal at one point, but Republicans deny ever having done so. In Wisconsin, municipal clerks pushed to be allowed to process ballots early, but the Republican legislature did nothing. Michigan Republicans did take action … to give local officials one whole extra day to open ballots.
If these states had adopted the rules of a Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, or North Carolina, we would either know their outcomes or be much closer than we are now. That they didn’t is another partisan injury Republicans intentionally inflicted on our democracy.