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How are the millions of votes counted in elections?

In: Technology

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It’s not that complex an operation.

Yesterday the US Stock Market (NYSE, NASDAQ, Cboe) traded 3,744,477,596 shares of stock. This is about how many they trade every day.

In 2016, Trump got 62,984,828 and Clinton got 65,853,514 for a total of 128,838,342 total. That’s 3.5% of an average stock market day.

With computers, these numbers are easy to tabulate, and in 3-5 days it’s common to have official, validated results for the whole country, down to ± 1 voter.

I don’t know about the USA, but each polling station counts their votes in Canada. Each riding (district) has about 90,000 eligible voter, but only 60,000 go and vote. The amount of polling stations depends on the geographic size of the ridding. I live in somewhat dense area, so there are on 21 polling stations. Low-density areas might have hundreds. Assuming that all 60,000 voters vote on election day at the 21 stations, that is about 2900 votes per polling station. Each polling station has maybe three voting boxes with a team attached to them. This means that each team will have about 1000 votes. To count the votes in Canada, the votes are read aloud by two people and then recorded. Let’s say one vote takes ten seconds. If each team does 1000 votes, that’s 10,000 seconds—just under 3 hours.

So, as long as you divide the labour, it shouldn’t take more than three hours to count all the votes.

It depends on the precinct. In some cases, there are scantron-style machines that just count up with hand counting done on a small sample for verification.

In other cases it’s all hand counting. In yet others it’s entirely handled by machines.