Fact Check

Is It True That Every Vote Used To Be Counted on Election Night?

No state releases complete and final results on election night, nor have they ever done so in modern history, according to experts, AP reported.

Published Nov 8, 2022

Democratic presidential candidate and US Vice President Al Gore (L) and his wife Tipper, taking photos, are introduced at a rally in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 1, 2000, one week ahead of the presidential election. (Courtesy: LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images) (LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images)
Image Via LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images
Article 3 of 13 in Collection
Claim:
In U.S. elections, every vote was counted on election night until a few years ago.

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.

A false rumor claimed that the US could easily count every vote in every state on Election Night until a few years ago.

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.

2020

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 CaliforniaDelaware, and Florida, to name just the first three examples we found.

2018

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.

2016

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.

2014

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.

2012

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.

2010

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.

2008

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.

2006

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.

2004

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.

2002

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.

2000

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.

Sources:

Baragona, Justin. "Sorry, Elon! Catturd Turns on Musk, Admits to Being '100% Wrong' About Him." The Daily Beast, 2 Nov. 2022, https://www.thedailybeast.com/catturd-turns-on-elon-musk-admits-to-being-100-wrong-about-him.

Barkas, Sherry. "First Time Quintanilla up in Palm Desert's District 1." Palm Springs Desert Sun via Newspapers.com, 5 Nov. 2020, https://www.newspapers.com/image/692212264/.

Barr, Andy. "2008 Turnout Shatters All Records." POLITICO, 5 Nov. 2008, https://www.politico.com/story/2008/11/2008-turnout-shatters-all-records-015306.

Brown, Matt. "Progressive Wave Sweeps Petaluma." Petaluma Argus-Courier via Newspapers.com, 8 Nov. 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/image/613921159/.

Burton, Greg, and Phil Boas. "You Are Key to Keeping Panic out of Election." Arizona Republic via Newspapers.com, 1 Nov. 2020, https://www.newspapers.com/image/691136097/.

"Bush Re-Elected." The Santa Fe New Mexican Election Extra via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, 3 Nov. 2004, https://www.newspapers.com/image/583749918/.

Carter, Andrew. "Tri-Rivers, MARCA Additional Levy Failing as Votes Still Being Counted." The Newark Advocate via Newspapers.com, 9 Nov. 2016, https://www.newspapers.com/image/241690461/.

Catalini, Mike. "EXPLAINER: The Need-to-Know Basics for the U.S. Midterm." The Associated Press, 7 Nov. 2022, https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-united-states-4f6eca413f8c6aa6d02d3f5d004f4347.

Clark, Lesley. "GOP Wave Could Get Bigger." Nation & World via Sun Herald via Newspapers.com, 6 Nov. 2014, https://www.newspapers.com/image/678432835/.

Cowan, Emery. "All Supervisor Incumbents Win." Arizona Daily Sun via Newspapers.com, 9 Nov. 2016, https://www.newspapers.com/image/517382755/.

Dennison, Mike. "For Tester, Victory Capped Long Night's Wait in Great Falls." The Billings Gazette via Newspapers.com, 9 Nov. 2006, https://www.newspapers.com/image/411966011/.

---. "Taking Aim at Big Issues." The Billings Gazette via Newspapers.com, 8 Nov. 2012, https://www.newspapers.com/image/523328406/.

Diamond, Michael L., et al. "Kim Takes Lead over MacArthur." Courier-Post via Newspapers.com, 8 Nov. 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/image/504236358/.

Ellis, John. "Rep. Jim Costa Takes Slim Lead over Johnny Tacherra." The Fresno Bee via Newspapers.com, 13 Nov. 2014, https://www.newspapers.com/image/667246373/.

"Fact Check-Official U.S. Election Vote Counts Legally Take Weeks to Certify." Reuters, 7 Nov. 2022, https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-election-vote-count-idUSL1N3231SX.

"From Naples to Tallahassee: Rick Scott's Improbable Rise to Florida's Governor." Naples News, 6 Nov. 2010, https://archive.naplesnews.com/news/local/from-naples-to-tallahassee-rick-scotts-improbable-rise-to-floridas-governor-ep-393387057-343154782.html.

Goldstein, David. "Democrat Wins Oregon Senate Seat." Ledger-Enquirer via Newspapers.com, 7 Nov. 2008, https://www.newspapers.com/image/860338643/.

Hallenbeck, Terry. "AP: Shumlin up 2,095 Votes with All Precincts Reporting." Burlington Free Press, 5 Nov. 2014, https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/05/vermont-governor-results/18515931/.

"Here Are the Four Times Election Day Ended with No Clear Winner." PBS NewsHour via The Associated Press, 6 Nov. 2016, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/4-times-u-s-election-night-ended-no-clear-winner.

Hutcheson, Ron. "Bush Vows to Push Changes in Taxes, Social Security." Miami Herald via Newspapers.com, 5 Nov. 2004, https://www.newspapers.com/image/651799110/.

Korte, Gregory. "Both Sides Arming for Vote Recounts." Honolulu Star-Advertiser via USA Today via Newspapers.com, 30 Oct. 2012, https://www.newspapers.com/image/266586446/.

Lemire, Jonathan, et al. "Trump Hits Election Integrity as Votes Still Being Counted." Florida Today via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, 6 Nov. 2020, https://www.newspapers.com/image/692268850/.

McCarthy, John. "Nelson Presses Ahead with Recount." Florida Today via USA Today via Newspapers.com, 8 Nov. 2018, https://www.newspapers.com/image/504244713/.

Neiburg, Jeff. "In Delaware, Biden Exceeded Clinton's Votes." Delaware News Journal via Newspapers.com, 12 Nov. 2020, https://www.newspapers.com/image/694251795/.

Pacella, Rachael. "Maryland Voters Evenly Split on Casino Expansion." Star-Democrat via Newspapers.com, 7 Nov. 2012, https://www.newspapers.com/image/115981704/.

Pearson, Rick, et al. "Rauner Declares Victory, Quinn Refuses to Quit." Chicago Tribune via Newspapers.com, 5 Nov. 2014, https://www.newspapers.com/image/249063356/.

Pemberton, Mary. "Young Retains House Seat in Alaska Election." Athol Daily News via Newspapers.com, 13 Nov. 2008, https://www.newspapers.com/image/842933492/.

Petrie, Kari. "Bennett Carries Slight Early Lead over Skwira." St. Cloud Times via Newspapers.com, 3 Nov. 2010, https://www.newspapers.com/image/224962504/.

"Quinn Wins despite Carrying Just 3 Counties." The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus via Newspapers.com, 6 Nov. 2010, https://www.newspapers.com/image/436509434/.

Rochman, Bonnie. "Races Are Still up in Air." The News & Observer via Newspapers.com, 8 Nov. 2002, https://www.newspapers.com/image/656526452/.

"S.C. Candidates Brace for Recounts." The Charlotte Observer via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, 12 Nov. 2006, https://www.newspapers.com/image/631737287/.

Schor, Elana, and Ewen MacAskill. "Congress: Big Democratic Gains Put Party in Firm Control after 16 Years." The Guardian, 5 Nov. 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/06/democrat-gains-congress-senate-elections.

Scribner, Herb. "Here's Why Precinct Results Don't Tell the Whole Story on Election Night." Deseret News via Newspapers.com, 7 Nov. 2016, https://www.deseret.com/2016/11/7/20599984/here-s-why-precinct-results-don-t-tell-the-whole-story-on-election-night.

Scutari, Chip, and Robbie Sherwood. "Napolitano next Governor." Arizona Republic via Newspapers.com, 11 Nov. 2002, https://www.newspapers.com/image/124690930/.

Shafer, Scott. "Making Sense of Election Night Returns." KQED, 6 Nov. 2018, https://www.kqed.org/news/11703680/making-sense-of-election-night-returns.

"Shapiro Claiming Treasurer's Seat." Standard-Speaker via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, 9 Nov. 2016, https://www.newspapers.com/image/526805187/.

"Smith, Merkley Race Nearly Tied." Corvallis Gazette-Times via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, 5 Nov. 2008, https://www.newspapers.com/image/383477446/.

Stanton, Sam. "Jones Leads, but Sheriff's Race Still Undecided." The Sacramento Bee via Newspapers.com, 10 Nov. 2010, https://www.newspapers.com/image/635252317/.

"Table 16: When Absentee/Mail Ballot Processing and Counting Can Begin." National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/vopp-table-16-when-absentee-mail-ballot-processing-and-counting-can-begin.aspx.

Taylor, Steve. "Loss in the Valley." The Monitor via Newspapers.com, 7 Nov. 2002, https://www.newspapers.com/image/331514877/.

Trone, Kimberly. "Garcia's Lead in Race Widens." The Desert Sun via Newspapers.com, 9 Nov. 2002, https://www.newspapers.com/image/194263596/.

Washington - Election Results 2010 - The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2010/results/washington.html.

Wire Reports. "House Race in Florida, 7 Other Contests Drag On." The Times and Democrat, 9 Nov. 2012, https://www.newspapers.com/image/440420617/.

Article 3 of 13 in Collection

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

Become
a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.

Perks

Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime
default