AJ Vicens for Mother Jones:
He points to the 2018 midterm Congressional elections in California as a prime example. In that case, late-arriving absentee ballots flipped what preliminary and incomplete counts made look like Republican wins to their Democratic opponents. President Donald Trump implied that the late returns somehow constituted “voter fraud” and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), then the Republican Speaker of the House, also questioned the results, calling the situation “bizarre.”
“The suggestion was if it’s taking time, there’s some kind of underhandedness going on,” Hasen says, “when, in fact, good election administration sometimes takes time.”
Hasen says election officials should work to clear up how long it will take to complete counts and get things right to politicians, the press, and the public. A good example of this, he says, was the way that Neal Kelly, the registrar of voters in Orange County, California, told voters after the 2018 midterm primaries that counting the remaining ballots would “take weeks,” helping to reset expectations in a jurisdiction home to several close and closely watched House elections. Without such proper messaging and widespread understanding, Hasen warns that slow counts could become yet another reason animating Americans’ distrust of elections.
“Delay, in and of itself, in announcing election results is not a problem if people understand what’s going on and people have confidence in the system,” Hasen says. “What Iowa did was convince people not only that it was late, but that the results were not to be trusted.”