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Some voters have doubts of election results, Utah officials say shifting results are common

(Utah State Capitol Complex. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – The dramatic shift in the results in the presidential election have some people crying foul. Some political observers are accusing pollsters of improper or illegal vote counting. However, local elections officials say sudden shifts in election results are not uncommon, and they don’t necessarily prove any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, claiming elections officials were not following the rules in allowing the Trump campaign to observe the count. He says mail-in ballots have a reputation for being the most prone to fraud and announced similar lawsuits were to be filed in Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, according to C-SPAN.

In New York, hundreds of people marched down 5th Avenue, demanding every vote be counted.  Similar marches happened in other cities, and Los Angeles Police are reportedly under a tactical alert in case tensions get too high during the “Count Every Vote” rally.

The issue, according to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, revolves around the high number of states using mail-in voting.  She says paper ballots take much longer to process than the computers at voting centers.  So, why was Utah able to drop the results of over one million ballots soon after the polls closed?  Swensen says clerks in Utah are allowed to process the ballots as soon as they’re returned.

“We can never see the results, that’s something that is built into our software, until Election Night,” she says.

In other states, clerks aren’t allowed to do that.  Politico says Michigan only allowed clerks in certain areas to begin processing the ballots on Monday, and only for a ten-hour window.  Pennsylvania clerks aren’t allowed to process their mail-in ballots at all until Election Day. 

Swensen says even though they’ve already processed and counted hundreds of thousands of ballots, their jobs isn’t close to finished.

“The results are never final until that official canvass date and it’s presented, in our case, to our Board of Canvassers two weeks after Election Day,” she says.

A drastic shift in results, by itself, doesn’t prove or debunk any kind of accusations of voter fraud, according to Utah Elections Director Justin Lee.  In fact, he says results frequently sway back and forth as more counties release more data.

“Utah County releases and Burgess Owens is doing better.  Salt Lake County releases and Ben McAdams is doing better,” Lee says.  “When you start releasing results from across the whole state with diverse demographics, it’s not weird at all to see things shift.”

However, Lee says there’s one important detail voters need to remember.  He says national news outlets can “call” a state for a certain candidate, but that doesn’t actually mean anything.

“There’s nothing ‘official’ about the press calling.  There’s also nothing ‘official’ if the candidate concedes,” Lee says.



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