How are votes in Arizona elections counted?

Millions of voters have made their voices heard. What happens now? Local officials in counties across the State of Arizona are making sure all votes are securely and accurately counted in accordance with the law.

What happens to my ballot after it’s been cast? Is the counting process secure?

All ballots are carefully tracked and protected. Before any ballot is counted, election officials check that the ballot is from a verified current eligible registered voter, who didn’t move or die before Election Day. Using a special tracking system, they also make sure that each voter’s vote is counted only once – and that no other absentee, mail-in, or provisional ballot is counted from that voter.

Whether you voted using an mail-in ballot or voted on Election Day, your ballot is held securely by your County Recorder’s Office and Elections Department before, during, and after counting. If you voted via mail-in ballot, you can track your ballot online to confirm it has been received by county officials, that your signature on the affidavit envelope was verified by the County Recorder’s Office, and that your ballot was securely transmitted to the Elections Department to be counted.

Observers appointed by the major political parties are able to watch the entire counting process. These partisan observers are not allowed to touch ballots.

You can learn about ballot tabulation and watch a livestream from each county’s central count location from links here:

You can read the rules here:

You can track your ballot here:

Can the media determine the results of an election on election night? What if the votes haven’t all been counted yet?

Many news outlets use partial vote tallies, statistical models, and projections to predict who will be the winner of an election or to “call” an election. These are partial tallies are not official vote counts, and predictions are subject to change as more results are tallied. Election officials give out rolling, partial totals and are constantly double checking and updating the numbers.

Why might the candidate who is leading change as votes are being counted?

Counties can begin counting votes as soon as early voting begins and voters begin casting and returning ballots. Most early ballots will be counted in the weeks leading up to the election (after they have gone through signature verification). These results are typically reported first on election night, followed by results from ballots cast at voting locations on Election Day. Early ballots that are received on Election Day will be verified and tabulated immediately following the election, with results reported on a rolling basis.

In a close race, early results can appear to favor one candidate and then another, but it is not possible to know the winner until all lawfully cast ballots have been verified and counted.

It is not unusual or suspicious for it to take days until the winner of a close race is determined.

How long will counting take?

Verifying and counting all ballots takes time. More than 2.4 million Arizonans voted in the last major election.

Each county’s Board of Supervisors must submit final, official election results to the Secretary of State by 5 p.m. on November 28. Between Election Day and November 28, counties will continue to verify and count early and provisional ballots, including reaching out to voters if necessary to resolve any issues relating to their early and provisional ballots.

Read about AZ post-election procedures here:

How do we know the vote counts are accurate?

Arizona requires that every vote is cast on paper. That means each voter can double check their choices before submitting their ballot.  And that paper ballot can be reviewed in processes spelled out by Arizona law for post-election audits, contests, or recounts to confirm that all votes were properly counted and tallied.

Before each election, Arizona’s voting systems undergo regular, public accuracy testing. The public has a right to attend the testing of voting machines. And the counting of ballots takes place under the watchful eyes of multiple bipartisan observers and lawyers.

By state law, election officials must conduct a limited hand count audit of ballots from select voting locations and a sample of early ballots. The hand counted results are compared to the tabulated results to ensure that counting machines are working properly. Those audits begin within 24 hours of the end of voting. At those audits, randomly drawn voting locations and batches of early ballots are recounted and then cross-checked against the original machine tally to confirm the accuracy of the count (or catch an error). Election officials re-check voting machines’ accuracy after the election as well (by November 27 for this election). 

Read about AZ post-election procedures here:

After all the ballots have been counted, how are the results for each race certified?

After counties submit election results on or before Nov. 28, the Secretary of State must aggregate and certify the statewide results on December 5 in the presence of the Governor and the Attorney General. December 10 is the deadline to formally contest any election result in court based on specified legal grounds.