As I was monitoring the presidential primary returns tonight I noticed something very puzzling. Take a quick look at this screen capture: precincts reporting This image is from one of the news websites (huffpost.com) but I saw basically the same thing on a number of different websites and for different states as well.

Notice the number of precincts reporting for the Democrats is at 72% and for the Republicans is at 67% with a difference of 30 precincts reporting.

How is this possible? The voting places do not sort the ballots by voter party, they all go into a common lockbox and when the box is opened all the ballots in that box are counted together at the same time.

For the sake of discussion let's say each polling place has exactly one lockbox apiece. How can they have counted 493 lockboxes for Democrats and only 463 of those same lockboxes for Republicans?

Can anyone explain ?

1 Answer 1


Your premise is flawed.

Some states may in fact sort the party information into different lock boxes. In cases where they don't sort the ballots as described, the ballots may be sorted out afterwards.

Regardless of the process, the ballots are not counted simultaneously by the same people. "One Republican for Rubio; One Democrat for Chaffee..." That would be horrendously inefficient.

In some small precincts the ballots may be counted sequentially, first one party, then the other. In larger ones, you may have two teams counting, or machines may do it, with humans going through and verifying.

In some circumstances, such as when one party is totally dominant, it makes sense to tally the small number of voters from the minority party first, because it's quick. In some precincts there will be 0 ballots cast for the other party, so you can report that, essentially immediately.

The case of South Dakota, which you point to in your question, is a very Republican state, which is also sparsely populated. There were probably many precincts where only a couple of Democrats cast votes, and those could be reported almost immediately. Regardless, there is no reason to suspect that the precincts reporting would be the same, nor is it necessarily a sign of malfeasance.

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