Close Senate races are underway in some states that have different laws regarding ballot deadlines and tabulation. But some high-profile Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — have suggested, without any evidence, that “they” are trying to “cheat.” Officials in those states say they are simply trying to count every legitimate vote.
Tight races in Arizona and Nevada could determine which party controls the Senate, so national attention has focused on the vote counts in those states.
Amid the uncertainty of the outcomes, high-profile Republicans have begun casting doubt on the integrity of those elections.
Former President Donald Trump, who has been posting frequently on his platform, Truth Social, wrote in part, “Clark County, Nevada, has a corrupt voting system… Arizona even said ‘by the end of the week!’ – They want more time to cheat!”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, referring to the vote count in Arizona and Nevada, said on Twitter, “This chaos is an intentional decision by Dems.”
And, similarly, Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in Arizona, has accused election officials of “slow rolling the results.”
Responding to Lake’s claim, Arizona Assistant Secretary of State Allie Bones said on CNN, “It’s ironic to us that people who are calling, you know, into question the integrity of this election and want faster results don’t understand that it’s actually those processes that add the integrity to our election process.”
Other, similar claims on social media compared Arizona and Nevada with Florida, which has completed most of its vote tabulation.
All three states allow ballot processing and tabulation to begin before Election Day — they are among a minority of states that allow this, as we’ve explained before — and both Arizona and Florida require mail ballots to be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Nevada accepts mail ballots for four days after that, as long as the ballots have been postmarked by Election Day.
So, while there are some broad similarities in the states’ election laws, there are some key differences. We’ll explain the situation in each state.
The focus in Arizona has been on Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and accounts for about half the votes in the state.
As of 6 p.m. on Nov. 11, Maricopa had tabulated about 77% of its more than 1.2 million ballots, and the Democratic candidates for governor and Senate hold slim leads. Sen. Mark Kelly leads Republican challenger Blake Masters by about 115,000, while Katie Hobbs is ahead of Lake by nearly 27,000 votes.
Initially, Bill Gates, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which oversees Election Day operations and vote tabulation, had anticipated that 95 to 99% of the ballots would be counted by then.
But he explained at a press conference on Nov. 10 that his estimate had changed because of “wonderful news — the great participation we had on Election Day.”
Arizona law allows for mail ballots to be dropped off at voting locations up to the close of polls on Election Day. This year, voters dropped off more than 290,000 mail ballots on Election Day in Maricopa County.
“That broke the previous record by 70%,” Gates said.
The previous record had been set in the 2020 election, when 172,000 voters had submitted their ballots to polling locations on Election Day, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, whose office oversees early voting, explained at the same press conference.
On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Election Day, officials received about 86,000 ballots, Richer said. On Monday, they received about 52,000. All of those ballots were processed, signature verified, and delivered to the board of supervisors for tabulation.
Then, as we said, on Tuesday officials received about 292,000 ballots.
So, election workers had received more than twice as many ballots in one day as they had received in the previous four days combined, and they couldn’t start the process of checking signatures and taking the ballots out of their envelopes until the polls had closed.
“We can’t begin this process any earlier because those ballots are dropped off at the voting location, they’re sealed in their envelopes, we pick them up at the end of the night after all voters have left all the polls,” Richer said. “We spent the night organizing them and then getting them ready for that scanning process.”
That contrasts with the law in Florida, which ends early voting on the third day before the election. So, election workers there had three days before Election Day to process and tabulate ballots without new early in-person votes coming in. Florida also doesn’t allow for mail ballot drop-off at voting precincts on Election Day, though voters can drop their ballots that day at their local elections office.
Also, Florida didn’t have a close election this year.
“Those other states like Florida? Those races were blow-outs,” Gates said. “Nobody’s paying attention anymore.”
That hasn’t always been the case, though. When DeSantis first sought the governor’s office in 2018, the races for governor and U.S. Senate were so close that the outcomes weren’t clear for days afterward and, predictably, there were allegations of fraud along the way.
Similar to the case in Arizona, most attention in Nevada has focused on the most populous county in Nevada, which includes Las Vegas — Clark County.
That county’s registrar of voters, Joe Gloria, responded directly to the claim in Trump’s social media post. At a press conference on Nov. 10, Gloria said, “Obviously he’s misinformed — two years later — about the law and our election processes, which ensure the integrity of elections in Clark County and the state. We couldn’t go any faster now even if we wanted to.”
The county posted a written response on Twitter.
At the press conference, Gloria emphasized that the timing for counting ballots is determined largely by state law.
“It’s the elephant in the room that I keep trying to communicate — there are statutory deadlines here that prevent me from finishing any earlier than the general public or you, the media, would like to see us work,” he said.
State law required election officials to accept mail ballots through the fourth day after Election Day — Saturday — as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. So Clark County is still accepting mail ballots.
That’s the most significant factor when comparing ballot tabulation in Nevada with a state such as Florida.
Additionally, voters who had been notified that their signatures on their ballots didn’t match the ones on file with the state have through Monday to fix the problem and have their ballots counted.
“And then, finally,” Gloria said, “we have provisional ballots that we cannot process until we’ve sent all of the information up to the secretary of state, who then compiles a report with all 17 counties so that we can identify any duplicates or somebody who has illegally voted in more than one county, which is something that we certainly want to prevent to uphold the integrity of our process.”
It’s also worth noting that expanded access to voting by mail is new in Nevada. The state adopted a permanent vote-by-mail system in 2021.
“We want to make sure we’re being accurate in validating the signatures and the identity of these folks,” Gloria said at the press conference. “That’s a lot of work that’s involved in reviewing — It’s a lot of work to go through in reviewing those signatures. So we’re moving at a pace that I think is a good pace for the amount of equipment and staff that we have on board.”
So, none of the claims suggesting that there’s fraud in Arizona or Nevada has included any evidence. And all the evidence points to the fact that election officials in states with closely watched races are following the law of their respective states and counting all valid ballots.
Correction, Nov. 19: We made clear that mail ballots are accepted in Florida up to and including Election Day, though on Election Day, voters can only drop off mail ballots at local elections offices, not voting precincts. Our story originally wasn’t clear on this point.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Reid, Tim and Richard Cowan. “A nation waits: U.S. election workers toil to count thousands of votes.” Reuters. 11 Nov 2022.
National Conference of State Legislatures. Table 16: When Absentee/Mail Ballot Processing and Counting Can Begin. 17 May 2022.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Counting Mail-In Ballots Delays Results, But Doesn’t Denote Fraud.” FactCheck.org. 7 Nov 2022.
National Conference of State Legislatures. Table 11: Receipt and Postmark Deadlines for Absentee/Mail Ballots. 12 Jul 2022.
Arizona Secretary of State. 2022 General Election Ballot Progress. Accessed 11 Nov 2022.
Maricopa County. Election Update November 10, 2022. YouTube. 10 Nov 2022.
Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Arizona’s Ballot By Mail System. Accessed 11 Nov 2022.
Florida Department of State Division of Elections. Early Voting and Secure Ballot Intake Stations. Updated 19 Oct 2022.
Florida Department of State Division of Elections. Florida Election Watch — Governor. Accessed 11 Nov 2022.
Dixon, Matt. “After Scott requested investigation, law enforcement says no voter fraud allegations found.” Politico. Updated 9 Nov 2018.
Clark County Nevada (@ClarkCountyNV). “Clark County Election Update.” Twitter. 10 Nov 2022.
Clark County Nevada (@ClarkCountyNV). “Our response to former President Donald Trump’s recent comments about the elections process in Clark County, Nevada.” Twitter. 10 Nov 2022.
Sisolak, Steve. Governor, Nevada. Press release. “Governor Sisolak signs groundbreaking legislation to expand voting access in Nevada, increase education funding.” 2 Jun 2021.