Why Nevada Took So Long

There were many reasons why a state with a relatively small population was one of the slowest to count votes.

The 2020 election spawned a great deal of confusion, memes, accusations, and waiting. A LOT of waiting. A running joke of the election was the sluggish speed at which Nevada counted their ballots. As of Saturday, Nevada had counted around 80% of its ballots. Nevada was compared to the sloth from Zootopia and that friend that you know hasn’t left the house yet but says they’re on their way. 

While it might be strange at first glance that a state with such a small population was so slow to count ballots, there are many reasons why Nevada took so long. 

In August, lawmakers in Nevada passed legislation deeming that ballots would be mailed to every voter in the state. This was done to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread at polling centers. 

The influx of mail-in ballots made counting slower by lengthening the period of time that ballot counters were receiving ballots. Any ballots received within a week of election day were valid, meaning election offices were counting new ballots well after election day. 

These mail-in ballots require extra verification of identity and eligibility. For in-person voting, these are verified on the spot, while mail-in ballots need to be processed for verification. Thus, mail-in ballots generally take longer to count than in-person ballots. 

In Nevada, ballot signatures must be verified by hand if the machines are not able to. This also adds to the amount of time it takes for mail-in ballots to be counted. 

Problems with matching signatures and verification also arose, meaning election offices needed to contact some voters to verify their ballots. This again added to the time needed to process ballots.

The combination of mail-in ballots being received days after election day, the lengthy process for counting mail-in ballots, and the increased number of voters using mail-in ballots adds up to Nevada seemingly working at the pace of the Zootopia sloth. 

This was one of the first years where a majority of Americans didn’t vote on election day. The Pew Research Center reported that a record number of over 100 million people had voted through mail, drop off, or early voting locations. As each election cycle goes by, we may see more and more voters opting to vote from home. This means we will be seeing more sloth memes, as counting votes could begin to take even longer.