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The rise in use of mail-in ballots can delay some ballot counting.
Each state also has its own laws about when counting can begin for mail-in ballots, and some of those procedures can slow the counting process.
A social media post makes the baseless claim that delays in election results are reason for suspicion.
"So Biden and the Democrats are telling us a few days before the midterms that results will be delayed and we should accept the results," says a Nov. 5 Instagram post. "These a—---- plan on stealing the elections and telling us in our face."
The caption on the post says, "Pennsylvania, Arizona and Ohio will be the states they target for cheating."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
There are valid reasons for delayed election results.
The increased popularity of mail-in ballots since the pandemic means that votes that were once tabulated on a machine on election night now require more handling, and could be tabulated after Election Day. For example, 19 states accept ballots received after Election Day if they are postmarked on or before (sometimes only before) Election Day.
The timeline for reporting election results also can be impacted by factors such as changes to local or state policies on how elections should be run,, according to the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
Election night results are unofficial, as county and state election officials take time to count every military or overseas ballot that comes in, as well as provisional ballots that were validated, according to the federal agency that oversees election security. Official results are released after "rigorous canvassing" and certification by local and state election officials, the agency said.
We reached out to elections officials in several states, and they explained some of the other reasons results can be delayed.
In Nevada, the delay in reporting election results is mandated by state law, said Jennifer A. Russell, a spokesperson for Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske.
By law, Nevada counties can receive mail ballots until Nov. 12, or four days after the election, and they have until November 18 to certify results, Russell said.
In Texas, counties have to wait until voting ends at 7 p.m. local time on Election Day to begin uploading their early return totals, including early mail-in ballots and votes cast early in person. After those totals are uploaded, then counties can upload their Election Day ballot totals, according to information provided by Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications for the Texas secretary of state.
There is also a difference between certified vote counts from state and local elections officials, and "called" races by news outlets. Certified results typically take weeks to produce. In some cases, media outlets call a race on election night using unofficial vote tallies.
An Instagram post claimed that delayed election results are proof of fraud.
The increased popularity of mail-in ballots since the pandemic can lead to delays in knowing who won in close contests.
Each state has its own laws about when counting can begin for mail-in ballots, and some of those procedures can slow the counting process. That doesn’t prove that fraud is at play.
We rate the claim False.
Instagram post, Nov. 5, 2022. Accessed Nov. 7, 2022.
U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, "Election Security Rumor vs. Reality," updated Nov. 4, 2022. Accessed Nov. 8, 2022.
PolitiFact, "No, every vote wasn’t previously counted on election night," Nov. 4, 2022. Accessed Nov. 7, 2022.
PolitiFact, "Ted Cruz’s misleading claim that only Democratic cities take days to count votes," Oct. 28, 2022. Accessed Nov. 7, 2022.
Kentucky Secretary of State, elections, "Rumor Control," updated Nov. 5, 2021. Accessed Nov. 7, 2022.
Email interview, Michon Lindstrom, spokesperson, Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, Nov. 7, 2022.
Email interview, Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications, Office of the Texas Secretary of State, Nov. 7, 2022.
Office of the Texas Secretary of State, news release, "What to Expect on Election Day in Texas," Nov. 7, 2022.
Office of the Texas Secretary of State, video, "SOS 101: Casting & Counting Your Ballot," Oct. 24, 2022. Accessed Nov. 8, 2022.
Email interview, Jennifer A. Russell, Office of Nevada Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske, Nov. 7, 2022.
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