ATLANTA – Tuesday night will mark the end of Atlanta's lengthy mayoral race, the night when the city will finally know who its next mayor will be.
But chances are, Atlanta won't know for sure who that will be until much later tonight. If it feels like every election, voters are left sitting around waiting until well after midnight to figure out who’s won… you’re kind of right.
MORE | Election results
For the past few elections, no county (that includes pieces of Atlanta proper) has finalized vote counting before 10 p.m., save for one instance.
Here’s the breakdown:
Nov. 7, 2017 – Atlanta’s mayor’s election
Fulton County: 1:41 a.m.
DeKalb County: 11:32 p.m.
Cobb County: 10:23 p.m.
April 18, 2017 – Georgia’s 6th District race
Fulton County: 2:17 a.m.
Cobb County: 10:28 p.m.
DeKalb County: 9:57 p.m.
Nov. 8, 2016 – Presidential general election
DeKalb County: 4:43 a.m.
Fulton County: 2:08 a.m.
Cobb County: 11:58 p.m.
Note: Times reflect when unofficial results were fully reported to the state. // Source: Georgia Secretary of State’s Office
As the numbers show, metro Atlanta election results are slow to trickle in. But why do other states get their results so much quicker? 11Alive dug into data from the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University to find out.
For every election in Georgia, voters get a little yellow card that they insert in the machine, and once they cast their ballot, a memory card records their vote. Voters also fill out a certificate at their polling location, so poll workers can compare the paper certificates to the number of votes recorded. This is to make no 'extra' voting is going on.
After the polls close, those memory cards are pulled from the machines, the votes added up, and results printed out onto paper. Poll workers then post those on each precinct door.
Here's where it starts to get sticky.
After all that is done, two poll workers get in the same car and drive all of the memory cards to the county elections office (Georgia's election board doesn't allow remote uploads of votes). And as we know, getting anywhere in the Atlanta metro area takes time.
Once at the county election office, every memory card from every machine is fed into computers. At the same time, those paper absentee ballots, which are not allowed to be counted early, have to be fed into computers – one-by-one – and counted.
On top of that, at least three times a night counting comes to a halt while every county uploads their results to the Secretary of State's office. Again... not a quick process.
From there, it's a waiting game until the computers count every single vote, on every single memory card.