For those who watch elections in the states, and in Congress, every two years there is a familiar scenario as the votes are counted for days, and sometimes weeks after Election Day, as close races for the U.S. House and Senate can sometimes stretch until Thanksgiving as county elections boards go through provisional ballots, overseas military ballots, and absentees.
But to a lot of average citizens who only tune in every two or four years, it seems hard to believe that three days after Election Day – let alone a week or two weeks – that elections officials would still be counting votes in close races around the country.
But with two key U.S. Senate races still undecided on Friday – and both suddenly in question for the GOP – President Donald Trump led a chorus of Republican voices in charging that Democrats were up to post-election dirty tricks, in order to take two Senate wins away from the GOP.
Asked by reporters if he had actual evidence of vote fraud, the President did not offer any as he left for a weekend in France.
But in many ways, this is normal.
Six years ago at this time in Arizona, the votes were coming in slowly, just as they have this year – except Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was ahead by a comfortable margin, and it didn’t draw much attention in the press, because other states were in the news.
What other state was making news days after the election in 2012? That would be Florida, which was still counting votes in a very tight race for President.
“Amid much criticism and ridicule,” the Associated Press article began on November 9, 2012 – the same Friday in 2018 that President Trump and other Republicans were expressing their anger about vote counting in two south Florida counties, as Democrats brought down the margin in a key Senate race under 15,000 votes.
This year’s troubles in Florida certainly are drawing more than just ridicule – and may well go further into dysfunction – but the timing of the continued vote count in the Sunshine State in big counties is not new.
Meanwhile in Georgia, the new Secretary of State – sworn in after the former Secretary, Brian Kemp, resigned after declaring himself the winner of the Governor’s race – said that while all the votes were being tabulated, no updated vote counts would be posted until next week.
Across the country, different states have different rules on how to treat everything from absentee ballots to mail-in ballots – for example, in Florida, a mail-in ballot must arrive by Election Day.
But in Arizona and California, those ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, and then have to arrive at the elections offices by Friday evening.
In other words, ballots were still pouring in on Wednesday and Thursday.
Out in California, the Los Angeles Times reported that 5 million ballots were still to be counted on Friday.
You read that right.
And it’s normal.
But for many of my listeners and readers, what is going on in these states is an absolute outrage – though the outrage seems to fall in line with whether the newly arrived vote totals are helping their party’s candidate or not.
There are more deadlines next week. And the week after. And after that.
It takes time.
And it’s normal.