The large volume of mailed ballots expected for November’s election has raised concerns that the final result could be significantly delayed, with mailed or absentee ballots having to be verified and counted, in addition to in-person votes being tallied.
As a result, some battleground states have either pushed for or will have additional time to count votes to ensure that the process is conducted thoroughly.
“The bottom line is we are not going to have the full results and a counting of all of our ballots on Election Night. We already know that,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. She warned that “we should be prepared for this to be closer to an Election Week, as opposed to an Election Day.”
States are limited by their own laws when it comes to when they can process and count ballots. Benson said state lawmakers denied requests to change the system for this year.
“We’ve asked the legislature to make changes to the law to give us more ability to be prepared and count those ballots more efficiently,” she said. “They have not acted for reasons that I don’t fully, completely understand.”
Aug. 5, 2020: Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Other key states already have laws on the books providing for early counting of mailed ballots. In Arizona and North Carolina, mailed ballots can be counted as soon as 14 days before Election Day, as long as the results are not announced until the evening of Election Day. North Carolina also requires that the time and place of the counting be announced to the public. Ohio also allows ballots to be processed and scanned — but no results announced — before Election Day.
North Carolina State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell told “Meet the Press” that her state’s early tallying rule has been around for several years. This, plus the state having already sent out nearly 600,000 absentee ballots on Friday, puts the state “ahead of the game,” she said.
In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose is concerned about having enough people to handle in-person voting.
“It takes 35,000 Ohioans to run in-person Election Day. And so we’re doing all we can to recruit those poll workers,” LaRose told “Meet the Press.”
Regardless of how swiftly those states can get their votes counted, however, one Democratic pollster recently predicted that it will take roughly a week to reach a final outcome, and that the disclosure of mail-in votes will result in a major swing from the Election Day totals.
“We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump,” Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of HawkFish told Axios, adding that the end result could end up being a landslide victory for Biden.
“When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it will in fact show that what happened on election night was exactly that, a mirage,” said Mendelsohn, whose company was started by Michael Bloomberg and is working with the Democratic National Committee.
Mendelsohn warned that such an event could shake the public’s confidence in the electoral process, saying that the country would be “in this deeply polarized situation where a portion of the American electorate, a real portion of the American electorate, feels that injustice was done.”
That is exactly what Benson wants to avoid, saying that she is “laser-focused” on getting an accurate outcome.
“And we’re going to be transparent throughout that whole process to make sure every citizen knows exactly where we are in the counting process and how many more ballots we have to get through,” she said.