Remember when Election Day used to be an actual day? You’d gather with your family and friends to find out who the next president was going to be. It was a time to celebrate our republic, as Americans went to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
Now Americans don’t learn results for days, and sometimes weeks. The new normal is Election Day dragging on and on.
For example, in 2022, the last US Senate and gubernatorial races were finally called on Nov. 23, a total of 15 days after Election Day. The United States House was worse. The last House race was not called until Dec. 13, a total of 35 days after Election Day.
Americans now prepare themselves for weeks of uncertainty and anxiety as Election Day turns into Election Month. They see their preferred candidates’ lead slowly erode. They have seen counts wildly change and don’t understand why. This ultimately leads to an erosion of trust.
So, why has Election Day turned into Election Month? Why were we able to know our election results on election night decades ago, but now we are lucky if we know the results a week later?
This problem isn’t happening everywhere. For instance, in 2022, Florida managed to call all its US House, Senate, and gubernatorial races within two hours of polls closing.
So how can a state as large as Florida have a final count on election night but other states take weeks?
Mail ballots are to blame, specifically how a state’s laws relate to the acceptance and tabulation of mail ballots.
Many states, including North Carolina, accept ballots that arrive after Election Day. In North Carolina’s case, the state accepts ballots that arrive three days after Election Day. If Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 747 is overridden in the coming days, this will thankfully no longer be allowed. County boards of election will have to receive a mail-in ballot by Election Day for it to be counted.
Some states are even worse than NC’s current three-days-late standard, accepting ballots that arrive up to two weeks after Election Day.
Accepting ballots that arrive after Election Day is the primary reason for the delay in election results. When a state allows ballots to roll in for weeks, results will be delayed for weeks. North Carolinians deserve to know their election results on election night.
Prolonged elections with uncertain results are undermining confidence in the electoral system. This is corrosive to trust in North Carolina’s elections and to the entire nation’s trust that our federal leaders are elected fairly.
North Carolina needs to change its law to require all mail ballots to arrive by Election Day. The state’s Republican Senate and House supermajorities should override Cooper’s veto and make it so.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, of which I am president, is fighting in court to have some of the most extreme Election Day extensions, like North Dakota’s law that accepts ballots up to 13 days after Election Day, declared a violation of federal law.
North Dakota is only involved in the case because it is one of the most extreme states in accepting ballots nearly two weeks after the election.
Federal law requires a single national Election Day to be held on “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of every even-numbered year.”
That seems simple enough.
Day is singular, not plural. Congress wanted a single day when the election was over, so the country could move from the fury of the election to governing.
The case challenging North Dakota’s 13 extra elections days is about helping to bring confidence back to elections nationwide. It’s time that Election Day mean Election Day again.
Your lawmakers can do their part to save Election Day by requiring all mail ballots to arrive by Election Day.
Delays in election results are leading to distrust in our elections. We can easily restore the day in Election Day and restore confidence in our democratic process.