What is the 'Blue Wave'?
Certain U.S. states—like Florida and Arizona—are allowed to begin counting and registering mail-in ballots prior to election night. While it sounds unfair, physically opening each envelope and verifying voters' details with their registration files is perfectly fine to do, but only in some states.
One of the most labour-intensive parts of the counting process, it's easy to see why counting mail-in ballots is such a time-consuming process. And it's because of that, that the 'blue wave' was created.
This partisan divide in how voters have chosen to cast their ballots means the early results in some swing states were predicted to be very lopsided early on election night. But whom they’re lopsided for depends on which state you’re looking at.
As Democratic supporters have been careful to remain at home when necessary, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many opted to vote via mail-in as the pandemic restrictions prefer. But of course, this highly-suggested method was one Republican voters didn't agree with, and the majority of Republican voters opted to vote in person at the polls.
Seeing as blue is the colour that represents the Democratic Party, the 'blue wave' symbolises the influx of Democratic votes that will funnel in mass amounts after mail-ballots are finally counted.
And while we patiently wait, said mail-in ballots have already been the reason why Biden has won swing states Wisconsin and Michigan meaning that the 'blue wave' may have hit.
What is the 'Red Mirage'?
The opposite can be said when it comes to the 'red mirage'. For states like Pennsylvania, the mail-in ballot process can't start until the day before, or even on Election Day, because Republicans in those states chose to block attempts to start counting earlier.
This means that counting said votes takes much longer than the process in other states.
As a result, the early numbers from those states reflected the in-person votes only, which explained why it initially reflected an overwhelming favour to Trump and his Republican candidates.
Given the late start these states have at counting mail-in ballots, this explains why it has taken days since November 3 to finish counting some of them.
Of course, these initial results are called 'mirages' for a reason. They’re not final and most importantly, they aren't completely representative of the electorates in said states.
When will we know when it's really over?
And while it's all fine and well to grasp the concept of mirages and waves, it's harder to predict when the race is well and truly over.
As predicted, the past two days have seen Trump use the 'red mirage' as a reason to falsely declare victory in certain states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, long before all the Democratic-heavy mail-in ballots are counted.
His campaign has also tried to interfere and stop the counting of any remaining ballots, despite the fact that it's common practice for many states to count ballots after Election Day, particularly absentee and overseas ballots.
But as we've seen, vote counting has continued long after election night. And the tighter the race is, the harder it becomes to accurately make any projections, which means waiting longer for more votes to be counted.
Ultimately, the media doesn’t decide who has won or lost the election, nor do the candidates themselves. Official results usually take a few weeks with the Associated Press (AP) and the Electoral College votes widely seen as the most reliable sources when it comes to the final result.