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What to watch as voting becomes vote counting

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

As voters continue to cast their ballots on this Election Day, let me bring in NPR's Miles Parks to talk about how the voting process has gone and what to watch for when vote counts start coming in. Hey, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hey there.

NADWORNY: So let's start with the big picture. How has voting gone so far today?

PARKS: Honestly, it's gone pretty well. I mean, we haven't seen any giant issues, including, notably, we haven't seen any violence at precincts, which was a big concern considering all the vote monitoring efforts we've seen over the last couple of weeks. Federal officials also say there have been no reports of foreign interference that they've found in voting infrastructure. But as a reminder, there are thousands of voting jurisdictions in the U.S., tens of thousands of precincts, and we have seen individualized kind of smaller issues pop up.

NADWORNY: Like what kind of problems?

PARKS: Well, in Arizona's Maricopa County, for instance, which is a critical place politically - it's the largest county in Arizona - Maricopa officials said earlier today that about 20% of the county's polling locations were experiencing a technical issue with ballot tabulators, the machines that count the ballots. So officials put out a video explaining the issue, saying voters had a couple of options. They could either go to another precinct if they signed out of this one, or they could put their ballots in essentially a drop box, which would then be tabulated later on in the evening.

But as you can imagine, this has been a gold mine for people pushing misinformation. People like former President Trump have already seized on this. Right-wing influencers say it's kind of some evidence of some broad fraud scheme, which is exhausting, but it's also expected. Officials have been saying for the last couple of weeks that people were going to try to seize on little normal issues that happened in every election cycle to try to say something nefarious is happening. There's no evidence that's the case.

NADWORNY: Yeah, make them bigger than they seem. All right. Let's turn now to some of the races. You've been watching secretary of state races, roles involved in election administration. What are you watching for?

PARKS: So the three key races I'm going to be watching are in swing states. Michigan, Nevada and Arizona all have election deniers was running to oversee voting in those states. All of these candidates say they think the 2020 election was stolen. And they all have formed a coalition that basically says they want to eliminate most forms of early voting, among other things. I spoke with Cisco Aguilar, who's the Democrat running against one of these election deniers, Jim Marchant, in Nevada. And if Marchant is elected, Aguilar said the next two years will be spent litigating the extreme changes that he's pushing.

CISCO AGUILAR: What it's going to do is be a stimulus package for attorneys. You're going to have constant litigation in this state, which is going to create chaos. And by the mere fact that chaos exists will create uncertainty in the election process.

PARKS: Now, Marchant says he just wants to secure the voting process. But Aguilar called him the most dangerous candidate on the ballot this cycle, which may sound a lot like hyperbole, but I've heard the same thing from a bunch of voting experts who are really worried about the future of democracy in a number of these states if election deniers are overseeing the process in 2024.

NADWORNY: So when polls close, we're going to turn to vote counting. What should listeners keep in mind for the results?

PARKS: The biggest - and I feel like listeners have been hearing it a lot the last couple of weeks - is patience. You know, we've seen a huge rise in mail voting over the last couple of election cycles. And mail ballots just take longer to count, especially in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the laws have not kept up with this trend. And election officials can't even start the arduous work of kind of processing these mail ballots, doing the security things that are needed to keep this process safe until on Election Day. So especially in those states, the process may take hours, it may take days, potentially could be weeks before we know the fate of some of these races. So everyone just has to take a second, take a breath and, you know, stay calm.

NADWORNY: Yeah. And if you don't get results, don't be alarmed.

PARKS: No, it's normal.

NADWORNY: NPR's Miles Parks, thank you. And when polls close, you can head to Npr.Org for the first results for all the key races across the country. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.