This election night, patience is a virtue

This Election Night won’t be like any we’ve experienced before in Luzerne County and Pennsylvania, but there’s no need to panic. The delay in receiving full results is due to an incredible amount of interest in voting by mail. Because of this, we should all be prepared to patiently wait for ALL votes to be accurately counted here in Luzerne County, across Pennsylvania and in the United States of America.

Currently, it is expected that it will take at least until Thursday to have a solid number for Luzerne County given the logistics of counting all of the mail-in ballots, which is a time-consuming and partially manual process, requiring sorting, the opening of two envelopes, preparing the ballots for the tabulating machine, and securing all ballots after they have been tabulated.

While I understand it’s nice to know who won and who lost on Election Night, it’s more important that we count every vote to ensure that the voters are heard. This year is unlike any other, but as we can see, Luzerne County has procedures in place to ensure a complete, transparent and accurate count as quickly as conditions allow.

To help provide a rough estimate of how long it will take to tabulate votes, a team of interested people and I have put together a basic formula using the number of people processing ballots and the total number of mail-in ballots to be processed. This formula was developed by timing the actual manual opening and preparing of the mail-in ballots, and concluded that one person can typically process two ballots per minute, or 120 ballots per hour, which means over 10 hours 1,200 ballots can be processed by one person or:

  • 10 People can process 1,200 ballots per hour or 12,000 ballots per 10 hours.
  • 20 people can process 2,400 ballots per hour or 24,000 in 10 hours.
  • 50 people can process 60,000 ballots in 10 hours.

This means if you know how many paper ballots need to be processed and the number of people processing the ballots, you can estimate how many hours your county will take by using the example & formula below:

Example: A county has 72,000 paper ballots and 20 people processing. Using the formula, you can see it should take them 30 hours.

That’s 120 ballots per person per hour, divided into 72,000 ballots, equaling 600 total hours needed. 600 divided by 20 people processing, equals 30 hours to process the paper ballots. The general formula is:

Given the incredible volume of mail ballots counties like Allegheny County (Approx. 413,000 ballots) and Philadelphia (Approx. 438,000 ballots) will have to process, it’s easy to see that this will be a time and labor-intensive process. With innumerable factors, please note that some details may change as conditions demand.

Add in the facts that mail in ballots – including those from the military – postmarked Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6 will need to be counted and that some counties won’t begin counting their mail ballots until after Election Day, it’s even more important to be patient this Election Night. We should ignore anyone who tells us that because we don’t know the results by a certain time the results are somehow not to be trusted.

Making sure every eligible vote is counted accurately and the true winners are declared is the whole purpose of our election system, not the speed of the count. Voting is the power of the people, and the people must be heard. This election night, patience will truly be a virtue.