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

Mother Jones illustration; AP/Johnny Louis

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

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.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate