Why are the results of the 2022 mid-term elections still not known?

it is election night, and polling has been closed for hours. Why don’t Americans know who the winners are?

in 2020, President Donald Trump announced that the lack of final results on election night could be an indicator of something nefarious and used it to claim without evidence that the election was plagiarized: “We don’t want them to be any more at 4 a.m. Receive ballots. And add them to the list,” he said.

In reality, however, results released on election night are unofficial and always incomplete. They inevitably change as more ballots are counted.

Unlike many countries, elections in the US are highly decentralized, complex and have a long list of races ranging from president and Congress to local measures and city council seats. Some states give local election offices several weeks in advance. election Day To process postal ballots, including checking signatures and verifying ID information. In other states, this process may not begin until election day or shortly before, meaning those ballots may not be counted the next day or even later.

This is why the results don’t always happen on election night.

Will we know the winners before we go to sleep?

Republicans in particular have pointed to perceived delays in knowing the results as having doubts about the integrity of the elections.

What if a ballot is damaged or improperly marked?

“We have to reform our elections so that every Arizonan, whether they are Democrats, independents, or Republicans, when they go to bed on election night, they know the winner and they are satisfied that it was a fair election. We just don’t have that,” Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, said on Twitter in August.

But not knowing the winner on election night says nothing about the fairness of the election or the accuracy of the results. Under Arizona law, all ballots, including mailed ballots, must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day, but officials have 20 days to finalize their counts.

In Nevada, counties have four days to count late-arriving postal ballots and two more days for voters to correct mailed ballots that arrive with envelopes containing errors or missing information. This week, election officials in the county, which includes Reno, reminded voters of that extended deadline, saying final, official results are not possible until the actual campaign for the November 18 vote.

“It will certainly be more than the day after the election for the final results of the election,” said Jamie Rodriguez, interim registrar of voters for Washoe County.

Why can’t we be like France?

a Close Republican Primary for US Senate in Pennsylvania Last May sparked comparisons French presidential electionwhich was held a few weeks back.

Trump questioned in a social media post two days after the Pennsylvania primary why it was taking so long to find out the winner: “France, all papers on the same day, had numbers verified in the evening,” Trump wrote. “America is a laughing stock over elections.”

But in France there was only one contest on the ballot. Presidential and parliamentary elections are held on different dates. In Pennsylvania, the US Senate was one of several contests, including the GOP primaries, races for governor, attorney general, Congress, and state legislature.

US elections are also not nationalized, but overseen by the states and run by local officials at the county or even township level. The US has some 10,000 jurisdictions charged with overseeing the voting process.

For presidential elections in France, the Ministry of the Interior distributes election-related materials, including ballots, while local officials coordinate the staffing of polling places. France also has a Constitutional Council which decides election complaints and announces the results.

Noah Pretz, a former election clerk in Cook County, Illinois, said it’s possible to get quick results, but that America “decided to make voting accessible to everyone and let us vote on everything.” He notes that ballots in the US typically include dozens of offices, unlike some countries where voters can only support the party whose leadership fills many of those positions.

In France, voters usually choose from lists of local candidates belonging to a party. The candidate list that receives the most support will receive the most seats in city and regional councils.

“It’s a fundamentally different view of democracy,” Pretz said.

In addition, voters in France can vote by proxy – if they are unable to vote in person on Election Day, they can nominate someone else to vote, which is not allowed in the US.

Do postal ballots affect the reporting of results?

they can do. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, states were expanding the use of mail ballots and early in-person voting to reduce lines and provide more flexibility to voters on Election Day.

Postal ballots are subject to various security checks, which vary by state. Some require voter signatures or ID information to match their registration files, while others require witnesses or notaries to confirm the voter’s identity.

In most states, including Florida and Georgia, the process of validating mail ballots begins long before election day—providing a huge advantage in reporting results quickly. Not so in some political battleground states. Officials in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin aren’t allowed to start that work until Election Day, while Michigan officials can start just two days in advance. That means most of the results reported on election night from these states will be from in-person polling on Election Day or during the early voting period.

“Counting votes and reporting results takes time,” said Leigh Chapman, acting secretary of state in Pennsylvania. “Election officials are focusing more on accuracy than speed.”

What other factors can slow down the results?

While most states require that ballots be received by mail on or before Election Day, 19 states offer a grace period as long as ballots are sent via post on Election Day. In California such ballots can be received up to seven days later.

If a large number of ballots arrive at local election offices after Election Day, voters may not know the result of a close race for several days.

It may also change the result over time. If Democratic voters dominate mail voting, while Republican voters largely cast in-person ballots, it could mean that early results favor a Republican candidate, who then sees that late mail arrive. Ballots are counted.

Will counting hands help speed up the process?

No. All ballots are counted by hand, mainly in small towns in the Northeast. For places with a lot of ballots, experts consider it more time-consuming and vulnerable to human error. Hand tally is used in post-election reviews to ensure the accuracy of tabular machines, but it usually only includes a sample of ballots and is without the time pressure of attempting to report results quickly. is done.

Republican activists and candidates are pushing for a hand count, based largely on conspiracy theories that the voting system was manipulated to steal the 2020 election. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or tampering of machines.

Also, counting hands automatically will prolong the reporting of results, perhaps by several days.

Georgia’s Cobb County followed a state-ordered hand match after the 2020 election. It took hundreds of people five days to count only votes for president on about 397,000 ballots. A county elections official estimated that it would take 100 days for each race to be counted on each ballot using similar procedures.

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