As Americans head to the polls to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats warned that, as they tried to do in 2020, Republican candidates may attempt to prematurely declare victory or even claim fraud in contests in which they’re initially ahead but they ultimately lose once all outstanding ballots are counted.
Noting that it can take a day or more to count all ballots including those submitted by mail, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday that “this is normal, but some GOP are laying ground to claim any race not called tonight is suspicious. Don’t fall for it.”
The campaign of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat running against Republican Mehmet Oz for U.S. Senate, released a memo Monday claiming Republicans “are already laying the groundwork to potentially spread false conspiracy theories about the likely ‘red mirage’ of ballot processing in Pennsylvania.”
“The reality is Pennsylvania law means in-person votes that skew Republican tend to disproportionately be counted and reported before Democratic-leaning mail-in votes,” the memo said.
Many states don’t allow mail-in ballots to be counted before Election Day.
But many races can’t be called until mail-ins are counted, which can take over 24h.
This is normal, but some GOP are laying ground to claim any race not called tonight is suspicious. Don’t fall for it.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 8, 2022
The specter of a so-called “red mirage” loomed large over the 2020 election. Chris Stirewalt, who during that contest was a political editor for Fox News—the first network to call the key battleground state of Arizona for President Joe Biden—explained earlier this year to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol how his newsroom knew that then-President Donald Trump’s early lead would evaporate as states tallied mail-in ballots favoring Biden.
So basically in every election, Republicans win Election Day and Democrats win the early vote, and then you wait and start counting. And it depends on which ones you count first, but usually it’s Election Day votes that get counted first. And you see the Republicans shoot ahead.
So in every election and certainly a national election, you expect to see the Republican with a lead, but it’s not really a lead. We had gone to pains—and I’m proud of the pains we went to—to make sure that we were informing viewers that this was going to happen, because the Trump campaign and the president had made it clear that they were going to try to exploit this anomaly.
While some countries utilizing nationwide electronic voting systems swiftly tally elections—Brazilian officials announced that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had won last month’s presidential runoff just a few hours after polls closed—separate state and local systems and rules across the United States mean that elections can take days, weeks, and sometimes even longer to decide.
Disinformation alert! With large numbers of absentee and mail-in votes, and rules prohibiting early counting, we may not know election winners for days. There is nothing to suggest that delay indicates fraud. Counting every vote takes time. Don’t fall for this scam! https://t.co/pr73FI2zS1
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) November 8, 2022
Noting that Pennsylvania, like most U.S. states, doesn’t allow officials to start counting ballots until Election Day, the watchdog group Common Cause Pennsylvania reminded voters that “it may take days for election officials to finalize results.”
“Before election officials can begin counting ballots, they must first process ballots, which includes checking to make sure the declaration on the outside of the envelope is signed and correctly dated by the voter and that the voter is on the absentee or mail-in ballot list,” the group said.
Khalif Ali, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said in a statement that “it’s crucial every voice is heard in this election and that means counting every vote.”
“It takes time to count every vote accurately and that’s why Election Day is not results day,” Ali explained. “Even if we don’t know the election winners when we go to bed, what matters most is making sure every voter’s ballot is counted accurately.”
“State law means that Pennsylvania’s election workers will be tasked with carefully processing and counting every ballot starting November 8, likely requiring days to accurately count all ballots,” he added.