Fox News is bracing for confusion as it prepares to cover the hotly contested 2022 U.S. midterm elections — including state-by-state laws governing not only the election processes but when recounts may come into play.
“If the outcome falls within a certain margin, depending on the state, then the candidate has the right to say they want a recount,” Fox News’ Election Night co-anchor Martha MacCallum told TheWrap in an interview Monday. “In some states, anybody can ask for a recount — no matter how wide the margin is. If a candidate believes it’s close enough that there should be a recount, then we’ll cover that.”
In the event a candidate refuses to concede, MacCallum said Fox News will cover it, adding that all candidates have the right to request a ballot recount.
That means that many races — and whether the Democrats will retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate — may not be determined on Tuesday night. That’s especially true since the closing times for polls differ by state, with some closing as late as 11 p.m. ET.
The state-by-state nature of election laws — many of which have been updated since 2020 — makes it more difficult for networks to cover the midterms, MacCallum admitted.
“We’re all kind of adjusting to a new reality with such a large number of mail-in votes and how it all gets processed,” she said. “We’re going to try to make sure people understand each state. They’re all different. They all have different rules. There’s a lot to get through.”
In response to the widespread use of mail-in voting during the COVID-era 2020 election, many states passed new legislation with new restrictions on early and absentee balloting — but also on when they tabulate and report on those early ballots.
“One of the things that we’re going to be able to do, hopefully, [Tuesday] night, is give people a better sense of how the rules have changed in many states post-COVID,” MacCallum said. “What it looks like now in terms of how many weeks they have for early voting, and when they’re going to count the mail-in votes prior to Election Day, or if they begin at 7 a.m. on Election Day, or 1 p.m. on Election Day.”
Those discrepancies also make it harder to call races since in many states early ballots favor Democrats and when those counts are tabulated can swing races that seemed to be swaying in one direction — as we discovered in 2020.
“One of the things people were kind of unsettled about during COVID was the confusion over when you’d get big chunks of votes that came in early, and then you saw everything changed as it moved later,” MacCallum said.