Why is it not yet known who has won the United States elections? | International

Three days have passed since Americans went to the polls and it is still not known who has won the legislative elections of the world’s leading power. It’s not the first time it’s happened and it probably won’t be the last. In the 2020 presidential elections, Joe Biden’s victory could not be declared until Saturday (elections are always on Tuesday) and this time the result may take even longer. The different state laws, voting by mail, preferential voting systems, the possibility of a second round and, above all, the tightness of the result prevent even certifying a winner.

At this point, both the Republican and Democratic parties have a chance of winning both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is true that the Republicans maintain an advantage in the House that makes them favorites, but by a margin of three or four seats that is by no means guaranteed. If the Democrats win the states in which they are ahead and are favorites and manage to turn around four others in which the Republican lead is short or the count is far behind (in Colorado, Oregon and two in California), there is a possibility that they reach the magic figure of 218 seats, the majority in a House of 435 representatives. It is not very likely, they have no margin of error, but it cannot be ruled out. At midnight this Thursday the result was 211-198 in favor of the Republicans, with 26 seats pending adjudication.

As for the Senate, everything is open. There are three seats left to define and whoever wins two will have control. Arizona and Nevada continue to count the votes. In the first, the Democratic candidate has a wide advantage and in the second, the Republican has a very short one, but there is still scrutiny ahead and any forecast is risky. If each party won one of those two states, everything would be pending in Georgia, where none of the candidates has exceeded 50% and a second round will be necessary on December 6. In 2020 it was already the Georgia tiebreaker that decided the Senate, in that case on the Democratic side.

But why does the scrutiny take so long? The first thing to understand is that these are not elections with common rules for the entire country. Each State regulates the electoral process in its own way. Draw the districts of the House of Representatives (leading to the gerrymandering, partisan delimitation), establishes the requirements to register, establishes the rules of early voting in person and voting by mail, has its counting machines and even different systems to declare the winner, including double-round systems —as in Georgia— and preferential voting, as in Maine and Alaska.

Also, this is not just a legislative election. People vote for the House of Representatives throughout the country and the Senate in 34 states, but also in many they vote for the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, commissioners, judges of the state Supreme, appeals and district, to various prosecutors, to state legislators, to councilors, mayors, members of school councils… The ballots are unique for all voting and can occupy several pages with dozens of boxes. That complicates the scrutiny.

vote by mail

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Mail-in voting rules are a major source of distortion. In most States, only those that arrive before the polls close are admitted, but there are States that admit them days later as long as they are sealed on time. In the case of Nevada, a state of 3.1 million inhabitants, ballots are sent to all registered voters and are allowed to arrive by mail until this Saturday. Voters vote massively by mail. As there is not a sufficient verification process beforehand, once they arrive, it is verified that the signature matches the one registered. If it does not match or an error is detected, the electoral workers contact the voter “by letter, telephone or email” and the citizen has a deadline to correct the errors until Tuesday, November 15. With a resounding result, there would have been a winner earlier, but with a tight one, every vote counts. Obviously, the system is very improvable.

In Arizona, and its already famous Maricopa County, something similar happens. For starters, that county is the second-largest electoral jurisdiction in the country and has to process a larger volume of ballots with proving inadequate means. In this case, the votes by mail have to arrive before the closing of the electoral college, but those and the anticipated votes are accumulated, especially the so-called “late anticipated votes”, which arrive the same day of the elections or the day before. They don’t start processing the next day and before tabulating them with the machine you have to check the signature, scan them, submit them to the party controllers and, finally, count them. This year, in addition, tabulation machines for voters who go to vote in person broke down, which also forces them to be processed. 7.1 million people live in Arizona.

The slowness of the count, for similar reasons, is repeated in other Western states, such as Washington, Oregon and, above all, California, where most of the seats without adjudication in the House of Representatives are now concentrated. In the presidential elections, in the Senate seat or in the elections for governor of California, that is not usually a problem because of the wide margin with which the Democrats usually win. In many districts with a clear majority of one party, neither. However, the equality and the slowness of the count prevent a winner from being declared in those that remain pending.

The delay and the incidents in the count are, on the other hand, the perfect breeding ground for launching hoaxes about the cleanliness of the count and accusations of electoral fraud, even if they are baseless. Former President Donald Trump already did it in 2020 and in these elections he has begun to sow suspicion. This Thursday he wrote on his social network that the Republican majority in the Senate depends on “whether the elections in Nevada and Arizona are rigged or not.”

electoral systems

Another part of the result is delayed by the peculiar electoral systems of some states. The double round is simple, it is applied only in some States and it is almost never necessary: ​​if someone does not exceed 50% of the votes, it goes to a runoff. The problem is that it has just come into play (once again) in Georgia, for the 2% of the vote that the libertarian candidate Chase Oliver has achieved. Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker now meet alone at the polls on December 6.

Something more complex is the preferential vote. Three candidates ran in Maine’s second district. Voters rank them on their ballots in order of preference. With more than 95% counted, Democrat Jared Golden has 48.2% of the first votes, compared to 44.9% of his Republican rival, but since none exceed 50%, 100% of the calculation must be completed and then see what was the second preference of the voters of the independent Tiffany Bond, who adds 6.9% of the votes to see who takes the seat. The same thing happens in the only district of Alaska. There, with 80% counted, Democrat Mary Peltola has 47.3% of the votes, followed by Sarah Palin, Republican with 26.2%. The advantage seems insurmountable, but the third candidate is also Republican Nick Begich. And there is still a fourth, libertarian, with 1.7%. Peltola is likely to get enough second votes (Begich is at odds with Palin), but we’ll have to wait at least another week to find out. There are only two seats pending the preferential vote, but with such a tight result, they count.

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