How Voting Actually Works

With the current election ongoing today, my daughters kept asking me how voting works. Although I had a general idea, I wasn’t 100% sure so I started doing some research.

Here is an easy and condensed outline of how voting works, in case you’re curious as well.


Information provided by

After you cast your ballot for president, your vote goes to a statewide tally. In 48 states and Washington, D.C., the winner gets all the electoral votes for that state. A candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors—more than half of all electors—to win the presidential election.

A projected winner is typically announced on election night after you vote. But the actual vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states.

While the Constitution doesn’t require electors to follow their state’s popular vote, many states’ laws do. Though it’s rare, electors have challenged those laws and voted for someone else. But in July 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that electors must follow their state’s popular vote, if the state has passed such a law. 


How Ballots are Calculated

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When explaining how ballots are counted, it’s important to distinguish between a ballot that is cast early and a ballot that is cast on election day. This can impact the process each ballot goes through before final tabulation. Every single voter’s identification is verified regardless of what type of ballot they cast.

Early Ballots

An early ballot is any ballot distributed to a voter prior to election day. For every election, early voting begins 27 days prior to the election. An early ballot package consists of the actual ballot, instructions on how to complete the ballot and the early ballot affidavit envelope. The early ballot affidavit envelope is used to verify the voter’s identity through signature verification. An early ballot cannot be counted unless the voter signs the EBA and the county subsequently confirms the signature matches the voter’s registration record. Once the County Recorder confirms the signature on the EBA matches the voter’s record, the ballot is transmitted to the elections office for tabulation.

Election Day Ballots

When a voter enters a voting location on Election Day, they must provide satisfactory identification in order to receive their official ballot. Once the voter receives and votes their ballot, one of two things can occur. Some counties utilize a method called “central count” and other counties utilize a method called “precinct tabulation”.

If a voter is in a central count county, the voter would deposit their voted ballot into a secured ballot bin. After the polls close, the secured ballots are transported back to election central (the location used by the county to tabulate the ballots) by election workers, whom of which are of a different political party.

If a voter is in a precinct tabulation county, the voter or the poll worker would run their voted ballot through the tabulation machine located in the voting location. The machine immediately tabulates the ballot and saves the vote counts to a removable media device located inside the tabulator.

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