Why Are Some Counties Reporting Their Election Results Late?

Tripp Grebe

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Election Night

As we moved late into the night of the 2018 midterm elections, the Wisconsin Gubernatorial race was unfolding as expected: a virtual tie. The Marquette Law poll released earlier in the week showed the race to be in the margin of error, causing the race to be classified as a toss-up.

By 10:00 p.m. about 97% of votes were in, and Scott Walker held a slim lead of just over 2,000 votes. It appeared as though Walker would cement his legacy as a “political survivor” by winning his fourth election in 8 years.

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Scott Walker welcomes supporters at a rally in Mosinee.

The eyes of the nation narrowed on Wisconsin, the voters of the state waited to see whether they would get four more years of Walker, or a more progressive leader in Tony Evers.

As the suspense prolonged, voters tuned to various news networks scouring for information on which way the election would tilt.

Roughly an hour later, TMJ4 in Milwaukee reported that despite 97% of the votes in Wisconsin being reported, Milwaukee County still had over 45,000 unreported absentee votes. Since this county is profoundly democratic, this news all but sealed the election for Tony Evers.

At 11:54 p.m. the results were confirmed. Of the votes remaining, Tony Evers received 38,674 votes, while Scott Walker only received 7,181. Tony Evers was headed to the Governor’s mansion.

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Tony Evers welcomes his supporters at a rally prior to the 2018 Gubernatorial Election.

The vote totals in Milwaukee County were consistent with polling numbers and past political trends. However, amid national concern regarding voter fraud, the fact that these votes were reported extraordinary late concerns many voters.

What’s even more concerning for some, is the national trend we see in heavily democratic Counties around the country reporting their elections results much later than the rest of the Counties in their state.

In Florida, heavily left-leaning Counties, Broward and Palm Beach, took weeks to report their final vote totals. In Broward County, election officials mixed up rejected provisional ballots with their approved provisional ballots. While in Palm Beach, the voting machines overheated and were not available to count votes. The County was using voting machines that were out of date, despite having the budget to purchase new voting machines.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes listens during a ballot recount in Lauderhill

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes listens during a ballot recount in Lauderhill.

Maricopa County in Arizona faced criticism when they stated that they would not begin counting some votes until the day after the election. This is not the first time the county has had problems administering elections. In the August primaries, it was reported that 62 polling places in the County were not ready for voters.

In Georgia, Gwinnett County announced the day after the election that they still had 472,000 votes to count, and their vote totals would not be reported for a few days.

There is no evidence of voter fraud in any of these Counties. The controversy stems from the fact that all these counties were won by Democrats in the 2016 Presidential Election, except for Maricopa County in Arizona. But even after the late reporting of votes from the County in the Midterm Election, Maricopa voted in favor of the democratic candidate.

How Ballots are Supposed to be Counted

On election day, voters go to their specific polling place to fill out their ballot. Once this ballot is filled out, it is processed in a machine. Once the polling place closes, the election official presses a button the voting machine that essentially prints out a receipt with the vote totals for each race.

If a voter wishes to vote using an absentee ballot, they mail their ballots into their respective county courthouse. Once the ballot reaches the courthouse election officials will certify that the signature on the ballot matches the signature that the voter registered with. Once the ballot is verified, it is counted in a voting machine at the county courthouse.

Provisional ballots are used for voters who go to the wrong polling place, or those whose eligibility to vote is uncertain. Provisional ballots ensure that voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. After the polls close, election officials determine the eligibility of all the provisional ballots. These ballots are accepted 79% of the time.

The election process varies from to state, but virtually all Counties follow these guidelines and procedures. The difficulty of these election procedures are subjective, but it is fair to say these guidelines are simple and straightforward.

So why can some Counties not figure it out?

The Trend in Urban Counties

The evidence in these counties is not there to support the idea that voter fraud is the crisis that many lawmakers make it out to be. According to the “Brennan Center for Justice,” there were only four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election. But the continual late reporting of votes from many urban counties is understandably concerning to many voters; especially Republicans.

The fact that Maricopa County, in Arizona, took weeks to finalize their vote totals, and had an uncharacteristic majority for the Democratic candidate raised further suspicion, regarding voter fraud.

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Maricopa County election officals count ballots days after the election in Arizona.

It’s additionally concerning to many voters that this trend consistently occurs in urban counties, where there is a high number of Democrat voters. When you combine this trend with the highly suspect absentee ballot drop off system in California, it’s reasonable to see why many Republicans believe Democrats engage in large scale voter fraud.

To further reiterate, there is no factual evidence of large scale voter fraud.

However, at a time in our nation where the majority of voters seem to have a mistrust for Governmental and Bueracratic institutions, it’s ever more important for voters to have faith that all election outcomes are truthful. According to a Pew Research Poll, as of 2017, only 18% of Americans trust their national government.

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People protest Obama’s visit to Oregon in 2015.

It is incumbent upon City and Election officials to clear up this cloud of controversy that falls over specific urban counties around the United States. Whether it be employing more election officials, establishing more efficient protocols for counting votes, or being more transparent about their voting process, change must occur in these counties.

If not, election results will be added to the growing list of government affairs, that voters do not trust.