image of a polling place

We find ourselves less than a week after the 2018 midterm elections, and entering the final stretch of the Year of the Suppressed Voter. Here I am writing about whether we should count every ballot in undecided races. But in this crazy mixed up world, this is the conversation we must have.

We are not debating whether a costly recount should occur. We are discussing if we should count every ballot. Let’s be clear about the depth of this insanity.

This isn’t an about a close race that has been decided and someone is demanding a review the results.

We aren’t double checking that the right individual was declared a winner. No one is wringing their hands over the hanging chad.

Trump TweetSome of our elected officials are arguing that we should not count every ballot cast. Others are arguing that election officials should not review ballots for possible fraud.

In Georgia, Florida and Arizona, there is significant opposition, including lawsuits, over whether we should count every ballot lawfully cast. These votes were cast and sent through the mail or hand delivered. Voters believed that their ballot mattered and in many races, it did. Republicans have criticized election officials because they insist on following the law to insure that no fraud took place.

In the too-close-to-call Arizona Senate Race between Kyrsten Sinema (Dem) and Martha McSally (Rep), where no winner had been declared at the time of this writing, Trump is calling for a new election.  The GOP publicized their allegations of impropriety and “corruption”.  No doubt this is because it appears their candidate is likely to lose the contest. Election officials were rejecting ballots from rural areas for improper signatures prompting the Republicans to call foul. It took a judge to untangle the mess.

Even in those rare years without controversy, vote counting ceases when a candidate concedes, or it becomes apparent one cannot mathematically win. The message is clear. Votes only matter up to the point where it decides a race.

Count Every Ballot for More Than Determining a Winner

Voting serves other purposes beyond answering who will represent the citizenry in political office.

Prior elections provide important data that serves as a picture of a district. This wealth of information from an election is more important than simply using it to win the next race. These statistics show political affiliation, demonstrate changes in demographics, and gives the winner an idea of the strength of their “mandate”.

But there is another reason why counting every ballot is important.  It is the message we send voters. Many times, casting a ballot is the only opportunity an individual has to make their voice heard. Many people cast ballots for candidates with no chance of winning as a form of protest. That dissent should be heard.

Voter apathy has been an uphill battle for the past 50 years. We tell the public that every vote matters. But does it if we don’t bother to count it?

Counting every ballot assures citizens that they have a say in the political process, no matter how small. It is the foundation of our democratic system. Every voter has the right to know that their ballot counts. Every candidate has a right to know how much support they earned.

If our election process is as important as we tell the world, then let’s act like it. Count every ballot.


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Shelly Fagan

Shelly Fagan is a freelance writer living in Arizona. She is passionate about American politics, business, universal basic income and worker rights. Follow her on Twitter @FaganWrites or on Medium at

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