CCU political scientist fact-checks misinformation about counting absentee votes

Fact vs. Fiction on ballot counting/recounting

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many people are concerned about recent social media chatter regarding the election, and how their votes are counted. Among those concerned with misinformation they’re seeing online are experts in the field.

Dr. Drew Kurlowski, a political science professor at Coastal Carolina University, says some people seem to think absentee ballots aren’t valid since they’re being counted after Election Day. He adds the notion is inaccurate.

“Counts always happen in the days after Election Day,'” he said. “It’s generally a week if not more before a state certifies that its vote totals are complete and accurate. To give you an example, right now, California is still furiously counting ballots and has probably only counted about 70-80% of the votes out there but because it’s not one of the states the election seems to turn on, we’re not really watching.”

Kurlowski’s primary focus is on campaigns, election law and voting behavior. He wants to ensure people are well-informed on the legalities of the absentee voting process. He also said people need to first understand there’s a difference between when a ballot is cast and when a vote is counted. He said that understanding could clear up some confusion.

As far as counting votes, Kurlowski adds in some states, ballots can be turned in after Election Day as long as it was postmarked before or on Nov. 3. This, despite claims that absentee voting opens the door for fraudulent behavior.

Kurlowski addressed those concerns and talked about the scenarios when a vote could be considered fraudulent or not valid.

“What I would consider a fraudulent vote is someone impersonating another individual and voting under their name,” he said. “But [those types of situations] are exceptionally rare. [As far as what is considered an] illegal vote, I would characterize as an invalid vote, such as a vote not cast in a timely manner or a ballot that was mismarked. For example, if someone accidentally voted for two candidates that would be an invalid vote and that would be discarded. It’s difficult to come up with concrete examples because this type of what I would call fraudulent voting is very rare."

While some believe the counting of absentee ballots should stop because Election Day is over, Kurlowski said that’s not the case.

“There’s nothing inconsistent with counting absentee ballots after Election Day, that’s how we’ve always done it,” he said. “We have not even completed the initial count. So before we have any claims about a recount, we have to complete our initial count. I don’t understand how there could be any call to stop counting votes.”

The professor encourages people to have faith in the country’s democratic system, and said it’s time to let the election officials finish the counting.

Kurlowski said whether President Trump or Joe Biden wins the election, the process needs to be peaceful.

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