Resist Trump’s Election Day Lies: Here’s How Your Votes Are Actually Counted

Mother Jones illustration; AP/Johnny Louis

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President Donald Trump wants the winner of the election to be declared on election night and doesn’t want any votes to be counted after. But that’s not how it works. Never has been.

In this video, our colleague and voting rights expert Ari Berman lays waste to five of the biggest myths about vote counting being spread by the president and his allies in this final sprint. 

Here are the facts:

1. Votes will continue to be counted after Election Day in every state.

Between in-person, mail-in, overseas, and military voting, it takes time to add up millions of ballots and ensure a correct count. Plus: Republican state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are delaying the start of the counting process for mail-in ballots, a move that Trump and his supporters appear eager to exploit to manufacture a false narrative of illegitimacy, paving the way to a contested count.

2. The president has no control over how votes are counted.

Election results are counted and certified at the state and local level. No matter what Trump and his lawyers say tonight, it’s the states and localities that determine how votes are counted. Keep following Mother Jones and other reputable outlets for the real news. And ignore the president.

3. Ballots can arrive after Election Day in many states.

Eighteen states have laws that allow ballots to arrive after Election Day to take mail processing time into account. Twenty-nine states allow military ballots to be received by election officials after Election Day. These extended deadlines are especially critical right now, given Trump’s attacks on the Postal Service this year.

4. No state certifies a winner on Election night.

There’s a difference between the “projected winner” of a state that you might hear on television or social media, and a “certified winner.” The calls from the networks are preliminary calls and are made with incomplete data. States may take days or weeks to officially certify the results.

5. The president has no authority to declare himself the winner.

Axios reported that Trump may prematurely declare himself the winner on election night if his early returns are favorable. Legally, that means nothing: Elections are certified at the state and local level, electors from the Electoral College don’t even meet until December, and the new Congress doesn’t accept the results until January.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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