By Aadi Mehta, Jan. 31, 2023
As the 2022 midterm elections results were coming in, it seemed peculiar why cable news networks could not make a projection as to which party would control the House or Senate by the morning of Nov. 9.
Subsequently, it became apparent that the main reason for this was the West coast, which was lagging in terms of counting ballots. This ended up being the problem as many mail-in ballots were not received yet by the voting centers. The process by which states like California, Nevada and Arizona use mail-in ballots is frustrating and needs to change before the 2024 elections.
Control for the United States Senate boiled down to three contests — Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. When Georgia was pushed to a runoff well into the night, all eyes remained on the west coast.
However, the senate races in both Arizona and Nevada continued to be “too early to call” in the days following election day, primarily because not enough of the vote was getting counted and updated to make a solid projection.
According to each state’s election website, Arizona and Nevada are universal vote-by-mail states, whereas every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot for each election. These ballots are mailed to each voter approximately three weeks before Election Day. If it is postmarked by Election Day, the ballot can be counted.
This presents the problem. Why do states allow mail-in ballots to be accepted after Election Day? Voters should send ballots earlier, a good measure would be to require voters to send their ballots a week prior to Election Day and then receive roughly all of them in time for the Tuesday of the election.
By doing this, volunteers at the vote centers can start counting ballots early as part of the early voting process and can get results quicker when Election Day comes by.
According to the Secretary of the States from California, Arizona and Nevada, all three states accelerated their vote-by-mail systems because of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 election. All these states made vote-by-mail permanent, switching from the previous system where voters had to request a mail-in ballot if they did not want to vote in-person.
Though these measures make it easier for people to vote, they require that vote centers verify the signatures made by voters in the envelopes of the ballots. This further slows down the pace in which ballots are officially counted and sent to news networks. For voters to certify these signatures and count ballots at an appropriate pace, ballots should be sent in a week earlier.
The west coast should take pointers from the east, specifically from Florida. The Sunshine State called its races within hours of polls closing on Election Day because its election officials already count ballots as soon as they are received.
Additionally, voters must send in mail-in ballots to election supervisors no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day, forcing them to request their ballots days, or even weeks, before Nov. 8.
As someone who closely watches presidential and midterm elections, I am extremely anxious to know the results as soon as possible. While I know that the voting process takes time and appreciate the hard work of all election officials, it should not take longer than one-two days. For Americans to have full trust and transparency with our electoral system, we need to take these steps.
With the 2024 elections not too far away, the west coast needs to implement changes now. Since Nevada and Arizona are key battleground states, analysts closely follow the exit polls and results that come out of these states.
If these two states are going to play a big role in determining who will reside in the White House and control Congress, then state officials should feel pressured, even obligated, to update their systems.
Vote-by-mail is constitutional, and the U.S. election system is one of the freest and fairest in the world. However, states need to make sure that Election Day occurs on a single day and does not spill into days or weeks. Once these mail-in voting changes are implemented in the west, voters will be less frustrated, more trusting of the American election system and more willing to vote.
Feature image by Jackson Gray
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