Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

The last polls in America in the hotly-contested midterm elections closed at 1 a.m. ET Wednesday in Alaska. But there are still races to be called.

As of early Wednesday, CBS New projected that control of the Senate remained a toss-up, with five contests yet to be called: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Wisconsin and Alaska. CBS News projected that House control, meanwhile, leaned Republican but several key races had not been called. 

There are a number of reasons it can take longer for ballots to be counted in some states. Here is a breakdown of some battleground states and their rules around counting ballots: 

Arizona

Arizona law has permitted voting by mail for more than two decades, with approximately 80% of voters in the state choosing to vote by mail. In Arizona, counties utilize tamper-evident envelopes for mailed ballots. Mail ballots are authenticated through a signature verification process conducted by trained election officials, and a voter is contacted if the signature on their ballot-by-mail affidavit appears inconsistent with the signature in their registration record. Mail ballot processing and tallying in Arizona can begin upon receipt, but results may not be released before all precincts have reported or one hour after the polls close on Election Day. Releasing information earlier is a felony in Arizona. An automatic recount is triggered if there’s less than or equal to a 0.5% margin of the votes cast for two candidates or a ballot measure. Recounts may not be requested in this state.

Georgia

 In Georgia, signature verification of mail-in ballots may be conducted upon receipt, and further processing can begin at 8 a.m. on the third Monday before Election Day. Tallying may begin at 7 a.m. ET on Election Day. In Georgia, a losing candidate may petition for a recount when results are within 0.5% of total votes cast for the office. 

The state automatically goes to a runoff election if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote. Early Wednesday, Georgia’s deputy Secretary of State, Gabriel Sterling, tweeted that it was “safe to say” the election in Georgia will head to a runoff. The state has not yet made an official announcement.   

Nevada

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Nevada switched to a system where all registered voters are mailed ballots. In 2021, Nevada’s Democratic-controlled state legislature solidified the change, making it permanent. Signature verification may be conducted upon receipt of mail ballots. Tabulating may begin 15 days before Election Day, and counting must be completed a week after the election. Results may not be reported until the polls close. In Nevada, a recount can be requested within three working days of the county or statewide canvass. Requests must be completed within 10 days of the request, and no margin is required. Costs paid by the requester may be refunded if the recount changes the election outcome in his or her favor.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania forbids counties to begin processing mail ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day – a significant challenge after 2019, when the state dramatically expanded access to absentee voting. Although Pennsylvania counties regularly ask for a legislative change to allow pre-processing of ballots, the legislature and governor still have not permitted it, resulting in delays. While election officials expect results earlier than in 2020, acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman has warned it could take a couple of days — particularly if races are tight. Pennsylvania state law requires automatic recounts when the margin for a statewide office or ballot measure is less than or equal to 0.5% of the total vote. A recount can be requested within five days of the election, and no margin is required.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin law, counties cannot begin processing and tallying mail ballots until the polls open at 7 a.m. on Election Day. By Thursday morning, nearly 600,000 absentee ballots had been returned across Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. There is no automatic recount in Wisconsin, but a losing candidate within 1% of the winner, with at least 4,000 votes cast, may request a recount.

Alaska

Polls close last in Alaska, so the results from the Last Frontier are always late. But the state debuted ranked-choice voting this year, and the Division of Elections is only counting first-place votes this week, according to Alaska Public Media. The second-choice rankings will be tallied on Nov. 23, the same day ballots mailed from overseas are due. 



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