Why the slow vote count?
Understandably, these dragged-out vote counts – especially when they reverse the trend – provide fuel for the conspiratorial types. For some folks, it undermines their trust in the system. It creates more time for suspicions and controversy to flourish – as we are already seeing.
This commentary is not intended to put more fuel on the darker suspicions and claims. Nothing we have seen so far suggests any large-scale cheating – although there always is a modest level of election shenanigans.
This commentary is merely to ask the question: What takes so long? At the time of this writing, there are still approximately 20 house races declared to be “too close to call.” There are hundreds of thousands of ballots yet to be counted.
In past elections, we would have cliffhangers in which the results were not known for days or weeks. But they were almost always a matter of counts … recounts … and court challenges. Today’s delay, however, is some inexplicable inability to simply count the ballots.
Part of the problem is due to the growth in early and mail-in balloting – and differing laws in different states. In some states, election officials are not allowed to even certify the early or mail-in ballots until the close of the polls on election day. Many mail-in ballots will be received after Election Day – but as long as they are postmarked before midnight, they must be counted.
While the number of ballots cast across the nation is enormous, the counting is done at thousands of precincts – with tens of thousands of workers. Rarely would a precinct have to count more than 2000 to 3000 ballots – some even less.
Over the years, I have worked in dozens of such precincts on Election Day – even as we shifted from paper ballots (some very long) to be hand counted … to machines … to punch cards … to now paper ballots tabulated by scanners. Large batches of ballots are being scanned by machines running at blurring speeds.
It seems that as we reformed and changed the voting systems, the longer it is taking to reach the final count. Even with those long hand-counted ballots in days of yore, we knew almost all the winners and losers before bedtime.
With all the folks doing the initial counting – and all those high-tech machines whirling at a dizzying rate of speed, what takes so long? I do not know that answer … but I do know that it does not have to be so slow.
Results can be challenged and recounted, but there is no reason we should not have the results in Arizona and Nevada – and virtually all those pending House races – within 6 to 24 hours.
How can the ballots be counted more quickly? First … ALL ballots should be in the hands of the respective precinct works by the close of the polls. That includes, early votes and mail-ins. Most places have a close-off date for early voting, we should have the same for mail-in ballots –any ballot not received by the close of the polls on election day does not count.
While the ballots would not be read until after the close of the polls, they can be certified as proper against the registered voter list ahead of time. As I would propose, all ballots to be counted would be in the precinct by the close of the polls. It would only take a few hours to get the count – even with election watchers making challenges to questionable ballots before they are entered into the tabulator
With modern technology, I see no reason for these long delays that frustrate candidates and the public alike – and lead to needless speculations.
So. There ‘tis.