(NewsNation) — The first projection in the Georgia Senate runoff came roughly two and a half hours after polls closed in the state, highlighting the differences in state election laws that allow for swift counting in some, but not others.
Vote counting became a major target for former President Donald Trump in 2020, when states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona took days to count votes. Massive amounts of mail-in ballots were received, which go through voter-verification processes before they can be counted.
In 2022, races also took more than a week to call in Arizona and Nevada, again because of mail-in ballots. Nevada recently employed a system that mails a ballot to every registered voter, and nearly 300,000 people in Arizona dropped off their mail-in ballots during Election Day; those couldn’t even be counted until after polls closed.
That’s not the case in Georgia, where more work is done prior to polls closing. Absentee ballots can be scanned in before Election Day and stored on optical scanning machines.
“All they have to do on Election Day is press a button, it tabulates, and you get the results,” said Gabe Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. “Those kinds of specific logistical functions make our counting a lot faster and more efficient than it is in other states.”
Explaining the system Wednesday on “Dan Abrams Live,” Sterling there’s nothing wrong or nefarious about the way other states count. It’s just that Georgia has elected to prioritize expediency.
“They’ve got their processes and it works for them, and they’ve made legal policy choices to do those,” Sterling said. “We made a policy choice to make it as fast and efficient as we could to get the accurate results out as quickly as we can.”
For instance, mailed absentee ballots in Georgia must be received by 7 p.m. Election Day, while in Nevada mail-in ballots can arrive up to four days after Election Day and still be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day.
In a tight race, all of the ballots that arrive in that four-day window may need to be counted before a projection can be made.
Even though Georgia has a process in place that allows ballots to be scanned in before polls close, Sterling noted necessary steps are taken to ensure tabulation is not done early and that voting remains secure. He praised the work of local election directors and poll workers, who are typically volunteers.
“There are lots of little things you can do to make the process easier,” Sterling said. “It requires good laws, good rules, and well-trained and really good election directors out there doing their jobs.”