Claim: Many Americans believe that in the 2022 midterm elections, if results are not announced on Election Night, it is because of fraud.
Rating: This claim is FALSE. More Americans are voting by mail and voting with an absentee ballot than ever. This means that the results of the election will take longer to be counted because it takes longer to count mail-in ballots and absentee ballots. Many election officials are urging Americans to have patience, and the delay in results is a sign that every vote is being counted.
Historically, the results of the midterm elections (and the 2020 presidential elections) have always taken days to be confirmed, because it takes days for all of the votes to be counted. In the 2018 Midterm Elections, it took a week for the results to be confirmed. In the 2020 Presidential Election, it took five days for Joe Biden to be declared the winner. That is because it takes time to count every vote, and more Americans are voting by mail than ever, making tabulating the vote a lengthy process.
When you vote in person, the poll worker confirms on the spot that you are a legitimate voter, by checking your ID. A machine then counts the voter’s ballot. That process is slower for mail-in ballots and absentee ballots.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans started using absentee ballots and mail-in ballots to vote, instead of voting in person. But in many states, poll workers cannot count mail-in ballots and absentee ballots until Election Day. And counting mail-in ballots is a lengthy process, because poll workers need to verify by hand that each mail-in ballot is from a legitimate voter. And historically, according to the New York Times, Democrats vote by mail more than Republicans. This means that results favoring one candidate can quickly turn towards an opposing candidate because of mail-in ballots.
This lag in the election results has made it easy for politicians to claim fraud. In 2020, then President Donald Trump falsely claimed that Joe Biden’s win was illegitimate—there were more votes counted for Trump on Election Night, but mail-in ballots that were counted on the days following the election turned the tide towards Biden.
Experts caution against believing that a delay is the result of fraud. “In 2020, it had a big impact on the way that the election was perceived and sort of provided a window for disinformation and conspiracy theories,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the director of the voting rights program at the Brennan Center for Justice told the New York Times. “And I think that there’s a risk of that happening again in some places in 2022.”
In certain races, the amount of in-person voting may give one candidate an advantage so great that mail-in ballots won’t be able to close the gap—and thus the race will be called for that candidate. But in many races, the results will be too close to call, with a handful of votes skewing the results in any direction. In 22 states, if the outcome is very close, they will recount the ballots. This can further delay the results of the races.
Because of these reasons, many experts emphasized that voters should have patience. “It’s just the election process playing out. Election officials are ensuring that every single vote is counted,” says Leigh M. Chapman to the New York Times. Chapman is Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of the commonwealth, the state’s top election official.
In short, voters do not have to worry that there will be fraud in the 2022 Midterm Elections. Federal officials at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that in 2020, despite Trump’s false claim of fraud, “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” There is no reason to believe that the 2022 Midterm Elections will not be as secure.