"A few extra days of watching cable news breathlessly report updated vote totals is a small price to pay for representative democracy."
Election workers process ballots at the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 10, 2022, in Las Vegas. Credit: Gregory Bull / AP

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

One of the great American philosophers, Thomas Petty, once said that “the waiting is the hardest part.” That wisdom has proven true in recent elections, with the public waiting days and sometimes even weeks for final results in some close contests.

And now some candidates, sitting politicians and other irresponsible voices are trying to convince people that this waiting is a problem — a flaw that reflects poorly on the country or, worse, demonstrates malfeasance. Don’t listen to them.

Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia recently tweeted that, “Our elections are the laughing stock of the world. Other countries do it in one day and count all of their ballots. They get their elections done. I don’t know why the United States can’t accomplish this in one day.”

That is accidentally a good point: Authoritarian countries in particular are able to have quick elections because the results there are often a foregone conclusion. They might chuckle at our notion that every vote counts or that votes count at all.

Call us overly patriotic, but we don’t think the U.S. needs to emulate the efficiency of elections in places like, say, Russia. A few extra days of watching cable news breathlessly report updated vote totals is a small price to pay for representative democracy.

You may notice that many of these irresponsible voices, starting with former president Donald Trump, cry foul about waiting for results when they or their favored candidates lose but have no problem with the results when they win. That is a pretty big tell.

In a world of instant gratification, and in high stakes political races, waiting for results is definitely a challenge. We get it. People want to know who will be in charge, and they want to know now. Despite suggestions to the contrary, this isn’t American Idol.

To answer Greene’s question, it can take time — depending on state laws (federalism at work!) — to count all the votes accurately and securely, especially in close races. Some contests are one-sided enough to call before all the votes are in, like Gov. Ron DeSantis’ runaway reelection win in Florida. While others are so close that a projected winner can’t be determined until more votes are tallied, like the nail-biter U.S. Senate races in Arizona and Nevada.

Those states took longer not because of some lawless scheme, but precisely because election officials were following the law there as they counted votes in these close contests. Arizona, for example, has seen a surge in people dropping their mail-in ballots off on Election Day. Those ballots require a signature match process to make sure those voters are eligible to vote. And as chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Bill Gates (no, not that Bill Gates) told CNN, that process takes time.

“We have experts here who go through, compare the signature on the outside of the ballot envelope with the signature that we have in our voter registration file,” Gates said. “That takes a while because we got to get that right.”

In Nevada, state law allows people to mail their ballots to clerks as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and arrive several days after. That basically ensures a delay in results, particularly when a race is close and those last-minute mail-in ballots could tip the scales one way or another. That is not some sort of conspiracy. Rather, it is how ballot access works under Nevada state law.

These are just two examples of legitimate reasons for election results not being available right away. We’ve even had our own delay here in Maine, waiting over a week before U.S. Rep. Jared Golden was officially shown to be the winner in the ranked-choice election in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. That wait, again, was based on the process for conducting ranked-choice elections here in the state, as twice chosen by Maine voters. This delay was not a weakness; it was democracy at work.

Voters across the country have the ability, through their legislatures or referendums, to shape their election laws. If they want to prioritize fast election results, that is their prerogative. But from our perspective, it is not usually a choice between fast or slow results.

If we want accessible elections with secure and accurate results, that occasionally involves waiting after Election Day. The waiting can be hard, but it is worth it.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...