As poll workers spend long hours counting ballots in Arizona and elsewhere in the days after Tuesday’s primary election, some critics argue they should be done counting them by now.

Widely shared Twitter posts this week called the delayed results “corrupt” and “unacceptable,” while Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake at a Wednesday news conference said Arizona voters should know the winner “when they go to bed on election night.”

She repeated that complaint during a radio interview on Friday, the day after the AP declared his victory in the primaries, saying “we had days of waiting to count the ballots. It is a disaster.”

These complaints ignore the realities of today’s time-consuming and labor-intensive ballot processing, according to experts and election officials. In fact, states never reported official election results on election night, experts say.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: In the past, election results were released on election night.

THE FACTS: That is misleading. While the media often project winners and The Associated Press calls races when it determines a clear winner, no state releases full and final results on election night, nor has it ever done so in modern history, experts say.

“In the entire history of the United States, there have never been official results on election night. That’s not possible, it’s never happened,” said David Becker, a former US Justice Department prosecutor and current executive director of the Center for Election Research and Innovation. “There isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t wait days, if not weeks, until after Election Day to officially certify the final results.”

He added that when the margins are large enough in certain races, the media feels safe enough to call races for one candidate or another. For example, Katie Hobbs was the clear winner in Arizona’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday night, while the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary was still too close as of Thursday night.

But those projections are not official election results, and the count still takes place after those calls are issued.

It can be reasonably argued that states could go out of their way to release unofficial election results before Election Night, according to Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT. Some states, like Florida, have passed laws that make it easier, he said.

Yet even states that manage to report unofficial counts on election night spend the next several days processing provisional ballots, reconciling mismatched signatures and correcting any tabulation errors, leading to a delay in final results, he said. Stewart.

Those unofficial counts also aren’t enough for the closest races, where candidates must wait for final results to identify the winner anyway, Stewart said.


CLAIM: If election officials take days to post a full ballot count, that means they cheated or are incompetent.

THE FACTS: That is false. It takes time and work to properly process and tabulate ballots, experts and election officials say. Certain local laws also require procedures that extend the process.

For example, poll workers in Arizona are legally prohibited from collecting ballots from polling places before they close at 7 pm on Election Day, said Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Elections Department. And as AP has said previously reportedmany voters who receive ballots in the mail choose to return them on Election Day.

In this year’s primary election in Maricopa County, by far the largest county in Arizona, more than 120,000 Voters turned in their ballots on Election Day, creating a backlog of votes that needed to be processed after the polls closed, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer explained on twitter.

Those ballots accounted for the majority of votes still being counted in the days after the primary election, Richer said.

The law also requires mail-in ballots to undergo signature verification, a time-consuming process in which signatures on ballot envelopes are compared to registered voter signatures to verify authenticity, according to Gilbertson. . After verifying the signature, the two-person bipartisan teams must physically separate the ballots from their envelopes and prepare them for tabulation.

“We’ve had two-member teams take your ballot out of its envelope, flatten it, have to count every ballot and every envelope,” Gilbertson said. “It’s a very, very manual process, but that’s required by statute for those bipartisan boards to do that separation.”

“They are making sure that eligible voters are the only ones who vote and they only vote once. And that takes time,” Becker said. “We should be delighted that election officials across the country are taking this seriously. It is much more important to do it accurately than to do it quickly.”

Arizona state law gives counties 10 days to tabulate and certify primary election results, according to Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Secretary of State.

“We do not anticipate any delays as we expect everyone to meet the deadlines set by law,” he wrote in an email to the AP.


CLAIM: Maricopa County election results are particularly slow this year.

THE FACTS: No, they are not. County data shows that counting ballots for primary elections took between seven and 10 days in each midterm year from 2006 through 2020. In 2020, Maricopa County took seven days to finish counting, data shows. data.


This is part of the AP’s effort to address widely shared disinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about AP fact-checking.


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