How Do Election Results Work?

Follow our live election results of the Texas primary.

The 2022 primary season begins on Tuesday with elections in Texas, and The New York Times will be reporting the results live on its website and apps. Here’s how it all works.

The Results

How does The Times get live election results?

Our live results are provided by The Associated Press. To produce its results, The A.P. combines data feeds from state and county websites with on-the-ground reporting by more than 4,000 correspondents who gather vote tallies from county clerks and other local officials after polls close. The Times has also occasionally published data from other results providers.

How often are the results updated on election night?

When The A.P. gets reports from states, it checks the vote totals for potential inconsistencies or errors. Then it sends the updated data to The Times and other customers about every one to three minutes. Calls projecting winners are sent immediately.

Times journalists and engineers have written software that automatically downloads and publishes the results within seconds. Don’t worry about refreshing the page — the results will update automatically.

Why do I see different vote counts on different websites?

Not every news organization gets its election results from The A.P. like The Times does. There are two other election results providers used by news organizations: Edison Research and Decision Desk HQ. State or local election officials often display their own results as well.

These sources can have different counts on election night, depending on the speed and scope of their reporting on a particular race. The results from all providers may not match until all the votes are counted.

How does The Times track the share of votes reported in a given election?

For years, election results providers used the percentage of precincts reporting to help give readers a sense of how many votes remain to be counted. Not anymore. The rise of mail-in voting and early voting has made the measure all but useless in many states, since absentee votes are usually not counted by precinct. This has often left readers and analysts at a loss about how many votes remain to be counted.

This year, The Times will be publishing its own estimates for the number of remaining votes.

Early in the night, these estimates will be based on our pre-election expectations for the eventual turnout, based on prior elections and early voting data. Once The A.P. reports that a county has largely completed its count, we will compare the reported vote with our pre-election expectations and gradually revise our expectations for the eventual turnout. We expect these estimates will be better than the old “precincts reporting” metric, but they are still only estimates. They will not usually reflect official information on the number of remaining votes.

What’s a precinct?

A precinct is the smallest level at which election results are reported. A precinct may be a few city blocks or an entire county.

Updated 

March 2, 2022, 2:06 a.m. ET

The Winners

How does The Times call winners?

In virtually every race, we rely on The A.P.’s calls. It employs a team of analysts, researchers and race callers who have a deep understanding of the states where they declare winners.

In addition to overall vote totals, race callers pay attention to county-level votes, votes by type of ballot and where there are ballots left to count.

The A.P. describes its decision-making process as “aimed at determining the answer to a single question: Can the trailing candidates catch the leader?” And only when the answer is an unquestionable “no” will The A.P. call the race.

In a very small number of high-profile contests, The Times independently scrutinizes and evaluates A.P. race calls before making a projection.

How can The Times call a race before any votes are counted?

News organizations can project a winner, even with no results, if the race was not closely contested or the party or candidate has a history of consistent wins in the county or state. In some cases, The A.P. also relies on the results of a pre-election survey to help make a decision.

Most major news media organizations, including The A.P., wait until polls are closed before calling a winner.

The Maps

Why does my state’s election map look as if it’s dominated by a candidate even though that person is behind in the vote totals?

The main type of map used on The Times’s results pages features areas that are shaded different colors. This is known as a choropleth map. For primary races, counties are colored to represent the candidate who is leading in the vote tally there.

Choropleth maps are great for quickly understanding geographic patterns and identifying leaders in a specific county you care about. But because the geographic area of a county may not be in proportion to the number of voters living there, they are not always good at indicating the winner of an entire state.

That’s one reason The Times’s primary results pages also include another type of map: one that uses circles to show the size of the lead that the winning candidate has in each county.

These maps sometimes make it hard to see the results in counties where there are too few votes or where the vote is very close, but they are good at showing population centers where a large number of voters may have pushed a candidate into the overall lead.

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