The balance of power in the U.S. Congress is still up in the air after Tuesday’s midterm elections, with several key races still to be announced about 48 hours after many polling places.
Cliffhanger-style multi-day waits for results are far from unusual in the United States, where the media is usually the first to report elections based on votes tallied by county clerks and other officials and statistical analysis.
While the long delay may irritate American voters and raise questions for curious international observers, there are several reasons why the process may drag on.
A jumble of rules
First of all, US elections are largely decentralized, with each of the 50 states having their own rules.
Some Americans vote by machine; others by paper ballot. Some vote in person; others by mail.
Some vote on election day. Others vote in advance. Many citizens use ballot boxes.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voiced his complaints as election officials in several states urged patience as the votes were counted.
“If #Florida can count 7.5 million in 5 hours. of ballots, as it can take days for some states to count less than 2 million. Rubio tweeted Wednesday.
Ballots, where Americans typically vote for a variety of candidates and initiatives, can take some time.
With the widespread popularity of postal voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, everything takes even longer – ballots can arrive at counting stations several days after the election. Ohio and Alaska count those who arrive up to 10 days later.
In addition, many states do not even allow election officials to begin counting mail-in ballots in advance.
The longer time required for the process encourages conspiracy theories, especially after 2020. an election that President Donald Trump falsely claimed was rigged.
That race between Trump and eventual winner Joe Biden was not known for four days.
Georgian nail biting
Southeastern Georgia 2020 played a special role because the balance of the US Senate depended on the second round of elections in this state.
This year is proving to be a case of déjà vu.
On Tuesday, none of the candidates exceeded 50%. on the brink of avoiding a runoff, the two primary candidates — incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker — will run on Dec. 6.
The organization of elections in a country where about 333 million people live. citizens is a logistical challenge in itself.
The process is rarely without a few minor hiccups. This year, for example, voting machines in one Arizona county experienced operational problems that disrupted voting.
Some Republicans, including Trump himself, pointed to it as evidence of fraud, a claim quickly dismissed by authorities.
Even without technical incidents, the race can be downright close, as several of Tuesday’s polls show.
Twenty states have laws requiring a recount if the margin between candidates is too small.
In one exceptional case in 2000 the country held its breath for 36 days and the entire election hinged on delayed results in one state, Florida, as Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore vied for the White House.
At the heart of the civic confusion was a thin vote that led to a highly contested recount by hand. Ultimately, the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Bush’s favor that December.