If you’re a first-time candidate running a local political campaign for office, then election night will inevitably be your biggest night of the year. And since all the hard work and dedication you put into your campaign hinges on the local election results, it’s vital that you know exactly where to look to get the fastest–and most accurate–vote totals.
First, let’s take a quick look at exactly how local election results are tallied up and released to the public. Vote counting on election night is usually done by your county’s Board of Elections, which records votes as they come in from each individual precinct in your district. Election results are almost never released all at once–instead, the Board of Elections updates the public as each precinct or ward tallies are complete.
Waiting for election results is sometimes a long process, especially if there are a lot of races on the ballot in your county or if there’s a particularly high voter turnout. Additionally, the ballot systems that your Board of Elections uses can also determine the speed that election results are generated; paper ballots can take longer to count than computer voting machines.
Regardless of how you track election results on your big night, you should be prepared to wait a long time to find out exactly who wins your race. The first results released by the Board of Elections is usually absentee and early voter ballots, which were already on hand and are counted as soon as the polls close.
A big lead in the absentee vote might tell you to expect good things from the final vote totals, but it shouldn’t make you celebrate too early–nor should a bad showing with the absentees cause you give up hope.
Now on to the places where you can actually track local election results. Before the advent of the Internet, candidates who didn’t have an inside contact at the Board of Elections had to wait for the media to contact them when the totals were in . . . and offer up a quote as either the winner or the loser of the race.
Today, many Boards of Election have their own websites that are updated with election results as the votes are tallied up. For elections that I’m involved with–either as a candidate or a supporter–I rely on our county Board of Elections website for all of the results. It sometimes takes a little longer than I would like, but by staying on the results page and hitting “refresh” periodically, I get the election results as quickly as anyone else.
There’s another Internet option for tracking the results of local elections, although it isn’t as quick as local Board of Elections sites: and that’s the Secretary of State website in your particular state. The Secretary of State is in charge of overseeing elections and tracking results, and many of them (slowly) update their websites with elections results for local elections across the state, as well.
The last way to track election results on the Internet is by going to local media, newspaper and radio station websites that track vote totals. Many local news websites publish up-to-the minute election results, and they usually get their information right from the Board of Elections.
Of course, if you’re in a large enough race that it warrants coverage from local television stations, then you’ll be able to watch the election results right on your TV. Some local stations cover smaller races like City Council and School Board, but don’t be too distressed if you don’t see results from your race on the tube and have to turn to the Internet instead.