In Election Season: Let's discuss the process I discussed what happens before the polls open. In The Election Process: Election Day and Closing the Polls I discussed what is going on during the election and what happens immediately after the polls close. This post is about the process after the polls close and who does what on a local, state and national level. I am also going to discuss when they do what they do.
(Originally posted by Mrs Raptor on Open Salon, August, 19, 2010, more details below)
I am always somewhat amused when the morning after an election arrives and the press has headlines claiming that someone "won" the election. The reality is that nobody "wins" the election until the results are certified and that takes weeks in an election where Federal Candidates are elected.
Before anyone is elected or any issue is decided the results must be Certified. Certification of results is a process that can, for a November election, take until January 7th of the following year. No results are final and no candidate is *office holder elect* until final certification of the results takes place. As an example, legally speaking President Obama was not the "President Elect" until January 8, 2009. Prior to that he was the Presumed President Elect.
Certifying the election:
First, after the election results are modemed in to the County Clerk, the local board of canvassers meet to go through the process that certifies local results. The local board of canvassers has 7 days from noon the day after an election to certify the results. If there are "irregularities" within the results the State Election Commission can, and frequently does, give your local board of canvassers an additional 7 days to investigate and resolve irregularities. Election officials are not "released" (that is they may not leave the County for any reason other than a Court Order) until the Board of Canvassers certifies the election. The results for local issues are considered "final" and the results can only be challenged in court following certification.
After the local board of canvassers certifies the election, the county clerk does two things... he or she modems in the certified results and he or she physically takes all of the poll books to the state capitol so that the State Board of Canvassers can certify the results. The State Board of Canvassers has 21 days following being given the certified results from the County Boards of Canvassers to Certify the State Results. If there is nothing on the ballots other than State issues, the results are final at the point where, some 4 to 5 weeks following the election, the State Board of Canvassers certifies the results. The results for State issues are considered final following the State Board of Canvassers certification and, like local issues, can only be challenged in court.
After the State Board of Canvassers is done with their part in the Certification process the results are forwarded to the Federal Election Commission, which has a further 28 days to pass their certified results on to the US Secretary of State to be pronounced "final."
Election results are never final until the United States Secretary of State Certifies them. "Elected" (not even "*office* elect" is technically correct) on a federal level does not happen until the Secretary of State certfies the results.
The difference between a Recount and a Retabulation:
Every election is apparent that the press does not know the difference between a recount and a retabulation. What the press refers to as a "recount" is, in most cases, a retabulation and not a recount.
Recounts are done by hand, they take days and the election officials conducting them are sequestered.
Retabulations are done by machine, take just a few hours and the election officials do it in the presence of the Board of Canvassers.
Retabulations are ordered by the Board of Canvassers if there are irregularities, such as one more ballot counted by the tabulator than the poll book accounts for.
Recounts are done only by Court Order.
Originally posted at Election Season: What happens after the polls close? although it won't be available there much longer it can be confirmed by those who have access to Google archives or other archives.
Mrs Raptor, is a native American that has spent time in Michigan, the Dakotas and Canada and was a poll worker. She posted this on Open Salon years ago, but Open Salon is closing and I thought it would be a good idea to continue making this available so I saved it and reposted it under fair use. This is some of the things that could be kept in mind when enacting election reform. Even Jimmy Carter has admitted that our system has major problems that should be addressed. I suspect that Mrs. Raptor would agree that it wouldn't hurt to confirm these details with local poll workers, even though I see no reason to doubt her. This is because many polls across the country have different systems and some of them may have changed since she wrote them, so even if you're in the same are she worked that isn't guarantee that they haven't changed since then.