On Nov. 1, 2022, the @catturd2 Twitter account, described by The Daily Beast as a "MAGA troll account," tweeted to its nearly 1 million followers, "Funny how we could easily count every vote in every state on election night until a few years ago." Similarly, Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar claimed, hours before Election Day, that "one day is all it took until very recently" to "count all legal votes in an election."
However, this assertion about past U.S. elections is false.
On Nov. 7, The Associated Press reported that "no state releases complete and final results on election night" and that they haven't done so in modern history, according to experts.
The tweet appeared to be pushing the notion that it now takes much longer to count the votes on and after Election Day to bolster the broader (and false) conspiracy theory, pushed by former U.S. President Donald Trump and others, alleging there has been widespread voter fraud in U.S. elections in recent years. The implication appears to be that the "delay" is caused by some sort of tampering on a massive scale in the days after an election. But researchers have never found any credible evidence of large-scale voting fraud in American elections.
Before We Begin
We're going to dive into reporting on past elections and show examples of how it wasn't true that every vote was counted by election night. Bear in mind that there are multiple examples like the following from each election year and that the certified, or final, vote count always occurs later. For the purpose of keeping this story brief, we have documented only a few of the examples from each past election year.
Also, we want to note off the top that some states begin counting mail-in and absentee ballots early, whereas others wait to start tabulating votes until Election Day. Readers can find data on these states and their vote-counting procedures on the website for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
On Nov. 1, 2020, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported of that year's U.S. presidential election, "Actual vote counts take weeks to tabulate." The reporting also noted that, "It's possible we won't know the winners of major races for more than a week."
According to newspaper archives on Newspapers.com, votes were still being counted after Election Day in California, Delaware, and Florida, to name just the first three examples we found.
On Nov. 6, 2018, KQED.org reported of Election Day, "For close races — for example, some of the hotly contested congressional contests — the final results may not be known for days, or possibly even weeks." The story added, "What will be needed tonight is generally in short supply these days: patience."
We were able to quickly find newspaper articles published after election night that said votes for the midterms were still in the process of being counted in New Jersey, Florida, and California, and again, those were simply the first three examples we encountered in search results.
On Nov. 7, 2016, Utah's Deseret News newspaper published a story with the headline, "Here's why precinct results don't tell the whole story on election night." The reporting said, "Don't be shocked if you don't know whether or not your county voted for a certain candidate. The majority of Utah's votes are now mail-in votes, which delay the count."
After Election Day, votes were still being counted days later in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, and other states.
On Nov. 5, 2014, the Burlington Free Press newspaper reported that Vermont's Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates in the 2014 election had chosen to wait until the morning after election night to make statements, so that all votes would have a chance to be counted.
Further, we quickly found examples that showed votes were still being counted after Election Day in Illinois, California, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana, and other states.
On Oct. 30, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported via USA Today that U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney were "prepared to take their presidential campaign to the courts," in the case that "election night doesn't produce a clear winner." Election Day was on Nov. 6 in 2012. The story documented how some states might take days to count all of the votes. "In Ohio, for example, provisional and absentee ballots can be counted as late as Nov. 16," the reporting said.
After Election Day, multiple newspapers reported that Florida, Montana, and Maryland were still counting votes, and once again, those were just the first three examples we found when performing a quick and simple online search.
In 2010, The New York Times reported that ballots in the state of Washington were still being counted as of Nov. 3, the day after the election. Similarly, the Naples Daily News published that votes were still being counted in Florida after Election Day. More examples were easily located on Newspapers.com, such as votes still being counted after Election Day in Minnesota, Illinois, and California, just to name a few.
In 2008, a presidential election year, Election Day was on Nov. 4. On the next day, The Guardian, Politico, and many others reported that ballots were still being counted in some states. We quickly found newspaper articles that were published after the election that said it took days or even more than a week to count all of the votes in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Oregon, for example.
On Nov. 9, 2006, two days after the 2006 election, the Billings Gazette newspaper reported that votes were still being counted in Montana. We also found that votes were still being counted in North Carolina as of Nov. 12, according to the Charlotte Observer.
On Nov. 3, 2004, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported that votes were still being counted in a number of states for the U.S. presidential election. The same was also the case in Iowa, the Miami Herald published. These were just the two first examples we found. Election Day was on Nov. 2.
In the 2002 election, the The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas, reported that votes were still being counted two days after Election Day. The same was the case days later in California, North Carolina, and Arizona, just to name a few examples we found.
In the 2000 election, the winner of the presidential contest was not known for more than one month. As PBS.org reported, "A few hundred votes separated Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore in Florida," which led to a recount and the famous term, "hanging chads."
The story from PBS, which was originally published by The Associated Press, also noted that Election Day ended without a clear winner in the presidential contests of 1876, 1824, and 1800.
The data in this story goes back more than two decades, with PBS and AP adding context for elections from the 19th century. With all of this information in mind, it seems clear that some people could use a subscription to Newspapers.com.