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VERIFY: When are mail-in ballots counted in DC, Maryland and Virginia?

A viewer asked the Verify team to look into when mail-in ballots are tabulated in the Greater DC-metro area.

WASHINGTON — A viewer asked the Verify team to look into when mail-in ballots are tabulated in the Greater D.C. metro area.

QUESTION:

Is it true that D.C., Maryland and Virginia will not start to count mail-in ballots until Election Day? 

ANSWER:

In Virginia and D.C., mail-in ballots are not counted until the polls close on election night. In Maryland, counties have the authority to begin counting mail-in ballots beginning Oct. 1.

SOURCES:

Maryland State Board of Elections

Virginia Department of Elections

D.C. Board of Elections

PROCESS:

“Is it true that DC, Maryland and Virginia will not start to count mail-in ballots until Election Day?,” a viewer asked in an email to the Verify team.

Our researchers started by asking election officials in all three jurisdictions.

Virginia and D.C. won’t tabulate or count, ballots until after the polls close on election night, but they have begun processing them.

“Removing the ballots from the envelope, separating the ballots from the envelope, flattening the ballots and processing them through the Agilis system,” Alice Miller, executive director of D.C.'s Board of Elections, said.

Miller says the Agilis system is a scanner that checks to make sure an envelope has only one ballot and signature. It also pulls up the voter registration system so that officials can double-check that the signature on the ballot matches.

“So we will do all of that, run them through the counter, we will not tabulate -- actually tabulate -- the ballots until after the polls close on election night,” Miller said.

It's a similar process in Virginia.

"Localities may pre-process absentee ballots prior to Election Day, however, no tabulation can take place until after polls are closed on election night," Virginia Department of Elections Spokesperson Andrea Gaines said.  "Absentee ballots that are postmarked before or on Election Day may be accepted until November 6th at noon so absentee ballots will continue to be counted throughout the week."

Gaines said that election results will be certified by localities on Nov. 10, and the election will be certified on Nov. 16 by the state board.

RELATED: Ballot counting begins early in Montgomery County to keep up with high volume

Over in Maryland, mail-in ballots are counted early.

A spokesperson for the Maryland State Board of Elections says local boards had the authority to start reviewing and tabulating the votes, which they call “canvassing” on October 1st. However, results won’t be released until after the polls close.

So we can Verify, in Virginia and DC, they are not counting mail-in ballots until the polls close. But NOT in Maryland, where they are allowed to count now.