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How Do They Count Ballots In Elections? How Are Results Available So Fast?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Thousands of voters will head to a local church or library or school on Tuesday to vote. But, once you put your ballot into the machine, where does it go? How are the votes counted? Good Question.

Each county has a slightly different method of counting, but there is a general flow. In most cases, the votes move from the precinct to the counties to the Secretary of State's office.

WCCO visited Hennepin County for a look at its process. After the polls close at 8pm and everyone standing in line at that time has a chance to vote, an election judge presses a button on ballot scanner to print out a paper report of the results. The judges then double-check the number of ballots doesn't exceed the number of voters. After that, a judge presses another button on the machine that sends the results wirelessly to county headquarters through a private, secure, wireless modem.

Ten of Minnesota's 87 counties use that modem systems. The others will do their checks and then drive the results to the county (and in some cases, city) headquarters. For some parts of some counties that hand-count, the results are called in.

Once the precinct results get to the county level, they are combined with the absentee ballots. Election officials can begin counting those ballots a week before the election.

The combined totals are then uploaded to the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, where they are posted to the website. They are refreshed every ten minutes.

WCCO, and several other media organizations, can report results from the Secretary of State's website, but WCCO often uses information available from the Associated Press.

The AP tends to report the results a few minutes faster. That's because it has stringers located at every county headquarters who can call in the results as they come in. That data is then sent to a centralized call center in Washington State and turned around quickly. It's posted to a website that WCCO can access.

From there, the results enter into the WCCO computer system and almost immediately appear on the bottom of the screen.

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