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Longer ballots mean it takes longer to count on election night

Following the hockey stick model, most voters turn in their ballot the day before and on Election Day. If votes get in early, it could take less time to count them.

COLORADO, USA — Even though Election Night is Nov. 8, official results of races will not be "official" until later in November, just like normal.

"This election is not actually going to be certified until closer to Thanksgiving because of the election not being until November 8,"  Alton Dillard, Denver Elections spokesman, said.

First of all, as in every election, military and overseas voters can have their ballots accepted up to eight days after Election Day.

During that same eight-day period, voters who had signature or ID issues with their ballots can still "cure" or fix the issue and have their ballots counted.

In close races, that cure period can delay knowing who or what will win.

What also can delay knowing results are voters who turn in their ballots on Election Day.

"We usually see a fairly flat period of early voting, with a big spike on Monday [day before Election Day] and Tuesday [Election Day]," Dillard said.

Ballots for the 2022 November Election go out on Monday, Oct. 17. If history is any guide, about half of voters will turn in their ballots in the final two days.

In the June primary, Denver voters, about 48% of voters turned in their ballots the day before the election and on Election Day.

When voters turn them in earlier, counties can verify the signatures and scan the ballots and have the results ready to learn at 7 p.m. on Election Night.

"Even though we have the ballots coming in the door, we can do all the pre-processing. We can scan them. We can verify the signatures. We can prepare them to go into the scanners before the scanning takes place. We just don’t have tabulate until 7 p.m.," Dillard said.

Because of statewide ballot issues, city issues, candidates and judges, Denver voters will receive a ballot with three cards, front and back. That equals six pages of votes to cast. Denver has a high powered scanner, but it still takes time to count.

"They can do up to 20,000 cards in an hour," Dillard said.

But 20,000 cards divided by three means it can count about 6,600 voters' ballots per hour.

"When people see the numbers and they’re like, 'why is it taking you all so long to count 330,000, 340,000 ballots' they’re not multiplying by three. We firmly expect to handle almost 1,000,000 pieces of paper for this upcoming General Election," he said.

Arapahoe County saw the same two-day spike in ballots turned in for the last two days of the June primary.

"If you want the most possible results, the most possible votes counted by the time you go to bed on election night, then the earlier you turn in your mail ballot that makes it better for everybody else," said Peg Perl, Arapahoe County Deputy Elections Director. "We can spend two weeks processing, validating and tabulating those ballots, and all we have to do, then, at 7 p.p. is basically hit 'total'. And if we hit total with 80,000 ballots in queue, we’re going to get a lot better results for you than if we only have 40,000 ballots in queue."

Planning to get your ballot in early can help beyond getting results known faster. It can also help prepare you to digest issues that take up the entire page.

In Adams County, voters who live in School District 27J, which includes Brighton, Henderson, Commerce City and Thornton, are being asked for money in a very detailed way.

"They provided us with ballot content for this mill levy override that is very, very specific down to the penny of what they intend to spend and how they intend to spend it," said Josh Zygielbaum, Adams County Clerk and Recorder.

In the June primary, Adams County saw 53% voter turnout between the Monday before the election and on Election Day.

"We can typically double the amount of ballots we'll receive on Friday to estimate what we'll get on Monday, double that again to estimate what we'll get on Tuesday, and so that’s what we in our world call 'the hockey stick' because if you look at the graphic, it goes up like a hockey stick.

9NEWS will be conducting seven candidate debates ahead of Election Day.

The final debate is the Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Joe O'Dea on Friday, Oct. 28.

While you might consider voting early, perhaps wait until the last debate to turn in your ballot. Turning it in that night or that weekend is still a week-and-a-half before Election Night.

RELATED: Colorado 2022 election: Here's a map of all the polling places, ballot drop boxes

RELATED: 9NEWS to host unprecedented 7 political debates in October

RELATED: Voter Guide 2022: Everything you need to know about the election in Colorado


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