Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) went viral on Wednesday after posing a question about why some states experience significant delays in determining the outcome of elections.
What did Rubio say?
On Wednesday afternoon, Rubio questioned why Florida — the third-most populous state — can determine election outcomes within hours of polls closing, but other states require many days to officially declare winners and losers.
“If #Florida can count 7.5 million ballots in 5 hours how can it take days for some states to count less than 2 million?” Rubio asked.
The question clearly resonated, because it received nearly 20,000 “retweets” and more than 100,000 “likes” by Thursday.
Even with control of the Senate hinging on important races in Nevada and Arizona, both states, for example, are still counting ballots. It could take days still before the winners of those elections are announced, especially if the difference is a few thousand votes.
So why the delay?
The delay in ballot counting can be boiled down to state laws that impose differing regulations about when election officials can begin tabulating votes and how long mail ballots can be tabulated.
Florida, for example, can begin processing mail ballots before Election Day. Only 38 states permit pre-election mail ballot processing. However, it’s not just about when processing can begin, but about when all mail ballots are delivered.
While Arizona can begin processing before Election Day, nearly 300,000 mail ballots were dropped off in Maricopa County — the nation’s second-largest voting precinct — on the morning of the election. Obviously, it takes time to both tabulate and verify those ballots.
“When people are told to drop off their early ballot on Election Day, those can’t be counted that night. You can’t just run them through a machine. They have to be signature checked, scanned first, signature checked, then processed by a bipartisan board before they can be counted,” former Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell told WSAZ-TV.
Meanwhile, in Nevada, state law permits mail ballots to be received for days after the election — so long as they’re postmarked by Election Day.
“[T]o be clear, we said all along that we would only have some of the results on election night,” Nevada secretary of state spokeswoman Jennifer Russell told NBC News. “By law, Nevada counties have until Nov. 12 to receive mail ballots.”
Overall, the delays are connected to the proliferation of voting by mail, which became a widespread practice in 2020.
“We’re all used to elections where it was as simple as plugging in USB sticks and running the results,” a spokesperson for Washoe County, Nevada, told the Reno Gazette Journal. “We can’t do that now because there are so many paper ballots. It’s going to take longer.
“This is the new normal for election night,” the spokesperson declared.