United States Election Assistance Comittee

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Tabulating Election Results in the United States

from: Jessica Myers on Apr 12, 2012

In the last week, the EAC has received numerous calls from voters concerned about how tabulation works in the United States. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify any confusion about this process.

Who Tabulates Election Results in the U.S.?

Local Authorities

The tabulation of ballots begins with the election officials in the nation's approximately 13,000 local election jurisdictions.  Local election officials count the votes in accordance with state laws or regulations, as directed by the chief local election authority.  Procedures can vary depending upon the administrative structure of the local election authority, the location of the initial tabulation, the voting system used, and the history of the local jurisdiction.  It is important to note that while election officials purchase voting machines and election management systems manufactured by private voting system vendors, in all instances, votes are aggregated and counted by local election officials as prescribed by State law.  Local election officials are also responsible for verifying the official results of all votes cast within their community and for certifying the winner of elections to local office. 

State Authorities

State election authorities are responsible for computing and certifying the election results for all races that cross local jurisdiction boundaries.  These include races for all statewide offices (e.g., Governor, U.S. Senator, State Attorney General, etc.) as well as others likely to cross boundaries.  In addition, State election authorities are responsible for certifying the results of other elections to state office and the results of the state's Presidential electors' vote for U.S. President and Vice President.

Federal Authorities

Federal authorities are not involved in the tabulation and certification of election results, with the following two exceptions provided for in the U.S. Constitution:

  • Every four years, the electoral votes for U.S. President and Vice President received from the States are read before both houses of the U.S. Congress and the total is officially tabulated and certified by that body on January 6, following the November general election of Presidential electors and the December vote of the electors in their respective state capital cities.
  • If the results of an election for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate are contested, the losing candidate may appeal to Congress.  The U.S. House of Representatives has authority under the U.S. Constitution to resolve contested elections to that body.  The U.S. Senate has the same authority to resolve contested elections for a Senate seat.

Challenges to election results may also be heard and resolved by a federal court of law.  In some cases, this involves a recount of the votes by persons designated by the court as directed by the court.

For more information, please see our extended description of this process. If you have additional questions, please contact Jessica Myers at jmyers@eac.gov or via Twitter @EACgov.


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4/12/2012 3:50:00 PM
Tabulating Election Results in the United States

EAC has received numerous calls about how vote tabulation works in the United States. We would like to clarify any confusion about this process