Why it’s taking longer than usual to report Boston’s election results

"It does seem that it's taking an inordinately long amount of time."

In a photo taken at 10 p.m., the giant screen at Kim Janey's watch party showed only a small fraction of the vote tallied. Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

If you’re waiting for the complete results of Boston’s preliminary mayoral and City Council elections, be prepared to stay up late — or check back Wednesday morning.

State and city officials acknowledged Tuesday night that the reporting of election results would take a little longer than previous election nights, as poll workers add thousands of ballots that were returned in the mail or to drop boxes around Boston before the 8 p.m. cutoff to local precinct tallies.

“This is part of the new normal,” Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley said Tuesday night on CBSN Boston.


Earlier this summer, Massachusetts lawmakers temporarily extended a pandemic-induced voting reform allowing voters to request an early, no-excuse absentee ballot and return in through the mail or at a local ballot drop box.

Those ballots could be returned to drop boxes up until polls closed at 8 p.m.

Boston’s Election Department said in a statement that they received approximately 7,000 ballots by the deadline Tuesday through the mail or by drop box. City officials said they all must be “processed at the Boston Election Department to allow for cross referencing with the completed voter lists returned from each polling location then counting.”

Local precincts — of which Boston has 255 — also do not report their results until their results are fully tallied. Subsequently, the results have trickled in at a snail’s pace; more than three hours after polls closed, the count appeared stuck at 0.39 percent of precincts officially reporting (that hasn’t stopped several candidates from declaring victory based off crowd-sourced precinct results).

“Reminder for those eager for election results tonight — last minute returns of ballots to drop boxes means a later count than past elections,” Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office tweeted Tuesday night. “Ballots need to be checked in at City Hall before they can be counted & added to the precinct tallies.”


Still, O’Malley, who is not running for re-election this year, said the delay is “a pretty good tradeoff, given the fact that we do have more mechanisms for people to vote.”

“Sadly, you know, when many of us are refreshing our computer screens and our Twitter feed, it does seem that it’s taking an inordinately long amount of time,” he added.

But rest assured, state law does require all ballots to be counted on election night. So the full results should come if you’re willing to wait. It may just come with another tradeoff: sleep.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com