Donald Trump and other Republicans claimed in 2020 that election results must be counted on election night to be valid.
Two days after Virginia Republicans held their primary for the state's high-stakes governor's race this November, it's unclear which candidate will emerge as the nominee, as ballot counting only began on Monday morning.
The lack of results in Saturday's voting runs counter to Donald Trump's and his GOP allies' demand after the 2020 election that all counting must be done and a winner declared on Election Day or else the results are fraudulent.
"I think it's a terrible thing when people or states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over," Trump said on Nov. 2, 2020, in response to a question about whether he'd declare victory on election night even without a representative count of ballots.
"Because it can only lead to one thing and that's very bad. You know what that thing is. I think it's a very dangerous, terrible thing. And I think it's terrible when we can't know the results of the election the night of the election in a modern-day age of computers," Trump said.
There are a few reasons why counting is going glacially slow in the GOP primary for the critical gubernatorial election in the state.
First, Republicans held what's called a "firehouse primary," a more exclusionary nominating process in which a state party runs the election instead of state election officials.
Unlike in a regular primary, in which voters cast ballots for candidates and the one with the most votes wins, in the Virginia firehouse primary, results are tabulated using a formula by which votes from different areas of the state are weighted based on past Republican performance.
The election, which featured seven candidates, is also being determined by ranked choice, through which voters rate their favorite candidates in order. According to the Republican Party of Virginia:
Voters rank the candidates according to their preferences. When ballots are counted, if no single candidate earns more than 50% of the total vote statewide (after giving weight to each delegation’s relative voting strength), the candidate with the fewest first choice preferences is eliminated. For the next round, the ballots favoring the eliminated candidate are then redistributed to the next highest ranked candidate on each ballot. This process is repeated until a candidate in each contest earns a simple majority of the votes.
Counting was also delayed after taped seals were discovered to be broken on the doors to a hotel ballroom where ballots were being stored, leading to fears of tampering. The Washington Post reported that it appeared a housekeeper had brought in coffee and other refreshments and that nothing was amiss.
The state party is counting every ballot by hand rather than using voting machines after candidates in the race raised baseless fears that using voting machines would lead to a rigged election.
The demand that votes be counted by hand rather than with machines came after Trump and his Republican supporters falsely accused voting machine companies of rigging machines against him in 2020. The allegation is false, and two of the voting machine companies smeared by the lies — Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic USA — have filed multiple billion-dollar lawsuits against Trump aides who spread the conspiracy theory.
Republicans are counting the roughly 30,000 ballots cast in the election by hand, multiple times over.
The slow counting is not the only problem the GOP primary has run into.
First, some high-profile Republicans claimed they were disenfranchised by the process.
Right-wing radio show host Hugh Hewitt said he was not allowed to vote in the race even though he registered to do so.
"Bummer. Not on any list for the GOP Convention for which I registered to be a delegate months ago so I didn't get to vote. Same for FMH. And no provisional ballots! VA GOP does it again," Hewitt tweeted on Saturday, the day of the primary.
The voting was done at 39 drive-thru voting sites throughout the state, the same voting method Republicans in Texas are seeking to end.
And in the end just 30,000 Republicans cast ballots, about 8% of the 366,000 Republicans who voted in the 2017 gubernatorial primary in the state. The 30,000 turnout was even less than the 53,000 who had preregistered for the primary, according to the Associated Press.
It's still unclear who among the four front-runners — state Sen. Amanda Chase, state Del. Kirk Cox, and businessmen Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder — will emerge as the nominee.
However, Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato, who serves as director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told the New York Times that the leading contenders are all similar to Trump, fitting into the categories of "Trumpy, Trumpier, Trumpiest."
Chase was one of the loudest voices pushing Trump in December 2020 to invoke martial law to block a peaceful transition of power to President Joe Biden.
Democrats, for their part, will hold a primary to choose their nominee on June 8.
Inside Elections, the nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the race likely Democratic.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.