The role mail-in voting could play in the midterms

We may not see final results of the midterms on election night due to different state laws on counting ballots. Jessica Huseman is the editorial director of Votebeat, a news organization dedicated to following elections and the voting process. She joined Judy Woodruff to discuss the role mail-in voting could play in the midterms.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Top elections officials in several key states, including Pennsylvania, have warned we may not see final results on election night.

    Jessica Huseman is the editorial director of Votebeat. It's a news organization dedicated to elections and the voting process. And she joins us now.

    Jessica Huseman, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    And I just want to say that the "NewsHour" wants as much transparency as possible about vote counting, reporting on these results on election night, given the questions that turned out to be — and suspicion that turned out to be unfounded in 2020.

    So let me just start out by asking you, why might election results in Pennsylvania be delayed on election night?

  • Jessica Huseman, Editorial Director, Votebeat:

    Pennsylvania is one of a very few number of states that does not allow any pre-processing of mailed ballots prior to Election Day.

    And so local election workers can't even open the ballot that the — open the envelope that the ballots came in until the day of the election. And if you have ever sorted through a lot of mail, you know that's a time-consuming process.

    And so, given the popularity of mail ballots, it's just going to take a little while logistically to get through all of those and do it safely and securely and accurately.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, overall, we know Pennsylvania has this rule, this law. Not every state does. But there have been these questions raised about mail-in ballots.

    Remind us what those questions are and how much worry — how worried people should be about counting those ballots.

  • Jessica Huseman:


    I will state from the outset that people shouldn't worry, right? This is a very secure way to cast your ballot. Studies have shown that for years. Vote by mail was actually largely a Republican innovation that was popularized in the last couple of decades.

    And so to see the Republican Party turn so far against it has been really striking to watch. But their underlying claims, which, again, are all false, is that there are additional risks of fraud in the vote by mail system. There are not. There are many back-checks for this. They also say that it's possible to cast fake ballots.

    And, again, there were backstops for that as well. And so it's a frustrating and a bit of a puzzling talking point, given the history of the issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jessica, one of the other questions, as you know very well, that's been raised is around hand-counting of ballots vs. automatic counting.

    Remind us what the questions are there and how we should look upon that.

  • Jessica Huseman:


    So there's been a movement for some time to move towards hand-cast paper ballots, which is you marking in a little bubble and submitting a paper ballot. But, recently, there's been a lot of fervor around actually counting those votes by hand as well. The argument goes that we have done it for a long time. That's how we used to count ballots. What's wrong with it? Why involve technology if we don't need to?

    Well, we got rid of it because it didn't work, right? There are so many more races on the ballots now. There are so many more votes to count. And study after study has shown that ballot scanning and automated counting processes are a lot more accurate than counting by hand.

    But, still, counties across the country are considering this. Cochise County, Arizona, is considering it as we speak.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One county in Arizona, but, in general, the — what — people can count on the machinery, the electronics that count ballots to be to be safe or and be accurate.

    So, what — I mean, just back up a little bit, Jessica. What should people expect on election night in terms of what may come in on time right away and what might not?

  • Jessica Huseman:

    You know, I think that we will see that most states have results when you expect that they will have results.

    The midterm elections are lower turnout affairs. More people are counting ballot ballots by mail. And, in most states, they can go ahead and process those ballots. And so, in states like Texas and Arizona, the counting is already under way as ballots start to come in.

    In states like Pennsylvania, we will see a lag in time for it to take until we know the results. And so please pay attention to your state's Web site. When your state releases results, the secretary of state or whoever the chief elections officer is in your state will make that confirmation.

    But there is a lot of misinformation going around. And I would encourage people to look at their county and state elections' Web sites for the best, most updated information.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's — quickly, that's why I wanted to ask you, because you do hear people raising that question from time to time: If I don't know the results right away, something must be going on.

  • Jessica Huseman:

    Definitely not true.

    No, this — the election is going to take several days to be counted in a few places, and it will take even longer than that to be certified. So, official results will not be available for several days after the election. And that is as it always has been.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jessica Huseman of Votebeat, we thank you very much.

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