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States report election results at different speeds

Not Real News

A worker organizes vote-by-mail ballots for scanning during the midterm election at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Miami. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming Florida’s ability to report election results quickly during the 2022 midterms means states that have taken longer, such as Arizona and Nevada, are engaged in fraud. 

CLAIM: Florida’s ability to report election results quickly during the 2022 midterms means states that have taken longer, such as Arizona and Nevada, are engaged in fraud.

THE FACTS: Florida has measures in place to speed up its count on Election Day. But the fact that Florida reports results faster than other states does not mean that those states are committing fraud, elections experts told the AP. Election officials repeatedly warned prior to the 2022 midterm elections that results in some states might not be known for days. Despite this, many falsely suggested the length of time is correlated with election integrity. Some compared Florida — which had finished counting its ballots, except those from overseas, by Wednesday — to Arizona and Nevada.

“This is absurd. Arizona and Nevada have a lot fewer voters than Florida and yet they take days longer to tally the results,” one tweet said. “Total fraud.”

Arizona had nearly 14,000 ballots left to count on Thursday. Sophia Solis, a spokesperson for the Arizona secretary of state’s office, told the AP that no counties in Arizona had fully reported their unofficial results by midnight on Election Day. In Nevada, all 17 counties submitted initial tallies, including in-person vote reports, to election administrators by the early morning hours of Nov. 9, Jennifer Russell, an aide to Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, told the AP Wednesday.

However, the state accepted mail ballots postmarked by Election Day until Saturday, and had 22,000 left to process in the state’s largest county, Clark, the day of the deadline, Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria said at a press conference. But states’ reporting speeds largely reflect the different ways absentee and mail-in ballots are processed in each jurisdiction, election experts told the AP.

“There are many reasons Florida counts quicker than other states, or other states haven’t completed their counts yet, and it has nothing to do with fraud in other states,” Michael Morley, an election law expert and professor at Florida State University, wrote in an email. One of the main differences is how soon before Election Day officials are allowed to begin pre-processing early ballots, which may involve confirming their validity or scanning them, Morley wrote.

Under state law, Florida officials can start this process nearly a month before Election Day. By contrast, Arizona counties did not send mail ballots to voters until Oct. 12 and the earliest they went out in Nevada was Oct. 7. Florida was required to send mail ballots no later than Sept. 24.

Another key difference is whether states accept mail ballots after Election Day. In Florida, most mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. local time on Election Day. Most early and mail voting results must be reported to the Florida Department of State starting within 30 minutes after the polls close and continuing every 45 minutes until all results are reported. Nevada, however, accepts mail ballots up to 5 p.m. four days after the election as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Arizona’s deadline is the same as Florida’s, local time.

Still, there is nothing unusual or improper about votes being counted after Election Day, said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. Morley explained that other differences that may speed up reporting include staffing levels, available equipment, the length of time needed to verify each ballot and how long after Election Day voters are able to fix, or “cure,” their ballots if any problems are found.

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report with additional reporting from Ken Ritter in Las Vegas.

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