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Election results in these states are yet to be finalized

Although Election Day has passed, races in several states have yet to be finalized--and may not be without legal action. Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, has already filed a lawsuit in a tight Senate race against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Outcomes in Arizona, California, and Georgia are also unknown. Lisa Desjardins speaks with Tammy Patrick of the Democracy Fund for details.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's three days after the midterm election, and voters in several states still don't know who will be representing them in Congress come January.

    Lisa Desjardins reports on the ongoing and contentious ballot-counting process.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Florida, political deja vu and discontent, with protests today outside the Broward County elections office, as officials review which remaining ballots to count.

  • Gov. Rick Scott:

    Here we go again.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This as Republican governor and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott has seen his small lead over Democrat and current Senator Bill Nelson decrease.

    Scott and his allies question why his race has narrowed in two counties, while the other statewide race, for governor, has not changed as much. Last night, Scott took the extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit and calling for state involvement with officials in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

  • Gov. Rick Scott:

    Tonight, I'm asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate this immediately, and I am considering every single legal option available.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    As of this afternoon, law enforcement officials said Scott had not yet asked for an investigation in writing.

    The drama has been magnified by President Donald Trump, who made allegations of fraud over Twitter, though he offered no evidence. He spoke to reporters this morning.

  • President Donald Trump:

    And Rick Scott, who won by — you know, it was close, but he won by a comfortable margin — every couple of hours, it goes down a little bit.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Nelson read a statement today:

  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.:

    Clearly, Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted, and he's impeding the democratic process.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Democrats blame poor ballot design in Broward County for discrepancies. The box for the Senate race sat underneath a long column of instructions, and they argue many voters simply missed it.

    Similarly, the state's governor's race is so close that, if the current margin holds, a recount will be automatically triggered there as well, this even though Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis Tuesday night.

  • Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.:

    Thank you, Florida, for your support.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Florida is not alone in the vote-counting battle. In Georgia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is pursuing multiple lawsuits. She has fallen further behind in votes in the past day, but is hoping to turn that around and force a run-off election.

    And in Arizona's back and forth U.S. Senate race, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema currently is edging out Republican Martha McSally. But election officials say ballots will continue to be counted through next week.

    Adrian Fontes with Maricopa County, near Phoenix, pointed to outdated technology.

  • Adrian Fontes:

    This is a very old system, and it was designed for a much, much smaller jurisdiction. We are now one of the biggest jurisdictions in the United States of America.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Finally, in California, several House races remain too close to call, and officials there say it might be December before there are official results.

    To answer some of the lingering questions about midterm vote-counting, I'm joined by Tammy Patrick, a senior elections adviser at the Democracy Fund. She previously worked as an election official in Maricopa County, Arizona, one place at the center of this week's ongoing counting, as we heard in the package we just put — the report we just put on.

    Thank you for joining us.

    Let's just start with some basics. What ballots are left to be counted right now? Are these provisional? Are they absentee? And can you remind us what the difference is?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    Absolutely. And thank you for having me.

    So, all across the country, election officials, not just in the jurisdictions you highlighted, are still counting ballot, both the ones that you mentioned, absentee, as well as provisional ballots.

    And semantics in elections is very critical. So, absentee ballots can be vote-by-mail ballots that voters received prior to Election Day. They registered what they wanted on their ballot, and returned it in a timely manner, in an appropriate, under-the-law manner to have their votes be counted. And so they are eligible to be counted, even though there are hundreds of thousands, if not, in some cases, millions of ballots that were turned in on Election Day or right up to Election Day.

    So those ballots take some time to process and need to be — need to be worked through and counted.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Those can be returned by mail or in person?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    Absolutely.

    So it depends on the state law. So in the states that you mentioned here, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, those could be turned in at election offices. In Arizona, they could drop them at the polls on Election Day and had special boxes for those vote-by-mail ballots.

    Provisional ballots are ballots that a voter, when they get to the polls, they encountered some sort of a challenge or issue in that they weren't maybe registered on time.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Wrong precinct.

  • Tammy Patrick:

    Wrong precinct. Exactly, exactly.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Tammy Patrick:

    So that's why they need to be looked at after Election Day.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    What is wonderful about you is, you can take us a little bit behind the curtain of what seems like a mysterious process so often.

    And you brought a few photos of the counting of provisional ballots in Maricopa County in 2012. And I was astounded. How many provisional ballots was involved — were involved here?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    So we had about 122,000 ballots in the 2012 election that were strictly provisional.

    And that's why it didn't surprise me — you can them lining the hallways here — it didn't surprise me that they're still counting. In 2012, we had about 600,000 ballots in the same time frame that we're talking about now. So this is normal. This is normal.

    So ,when voters are given an opportunity to receive their ballots before Election Day, and return them up to and until Election Day, we have to still have time to count them. And that's why, when you have hundreds of thousands, in the case of Maricopa County, half-a-million people who don't turn them in until Monday or Tuesday's election, it takes some time after the fact.

    And in most cases, you will have, not just days, but weeks to be able to make sure that every valid and eligible vote gets counted.

    We also have ballots coming in by military and overseas voters during this time. And that's a critical element as well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So part of this, of course, is how you do your job, the process as it's supposed to be, but it seems there is also a political element every year in terms of whether there is enough time to count the votes before they are supposed to be certified.

    We saw lawsuits in Florida and in Arizona over when the counting should start and stop. We also saw the president, the governor of Georgia, this — one of the senators from Florida say that Democrats are trying to steal this election, without offering any proof.

    How do you think we should draw the line between a legitimate elections question and what might be political fear-mongering?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    So, I think it's important for everyone to know that, each election, there's a process that's laid out statutorily or by administrative rule and law of how this proceeds.

    So, even if it's not a close election, the same process is going to take place in a close election, an election that has a wide margin, which, by the way, is the election administrative prayer, is that, may the margins of victory be wide.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Tammy Patrick:

    So, some people, they didn't have their prayer answered.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They're not wide this year.

  • Tammy Patrick:

    They're not wide this year in some places.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But does it matter if someone like the president is saying, without evidence, that he thinks fraud is happening? What does that do?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    I do you think it's important when people who are in positions of power or authority — whether it's a president or a governor or any other elected official, if you are given a podium, a pulpit or a microphone, you need to take that responsibility very seriously when you call into question and challenge and incite any sort of doubt into the foundational aspect of our democratic process.

    It shouldn't be taken lightly that people are doing that now. And so as a — as a voter, how can you have confidence that in fact that is just a partisan or a political move, rather than a really, truly — an indication that there were issues?

    And what I would say is that it's important to know the process that's taking place where you are. It's important to know if the equipment and things are being audited and being validated, and then, if you have any questions, to call up your local election officials, watch on TV, follow them on Twitter.

    Many of them are posting how they're doing their procedures with Facebook Live and what have you, so you can get into the process itself.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    Voters need to know the rules and pay attention to the equipment, I think, right?

  • Tammy Patrick:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Tammy Patrick, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Tammy Patrick:

    Thank you so much for having me.

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