- NORWALK, Calif. November 23, 2016 – California election administrators continue the detailed and tedious process of vote counting and election canvassing as the federal government prepares for a transfer of power and voter attention shifts from the November 8th General Election to the holidays and New Year.
In the state of California, election results are not final and certified until early December, which can come as a surprise to some election observers who frequently have a keen interest in contests where the margin of victory is extremely close and remain vigilant in their observation and anticipation of the final count.
According to Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk for Los Angeles County and President of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, California has one of the lengthiest post-election canvass periods in the nation.
Counties in the state have up to 28 days to complete the count for President and up to 30 days for all other contests and measures.
“Historically, up to one third of the total ballots cast in an election are processed and counted during this post-election canvassing period,” Logan added.
The extended period is responsive to the state’s open voting model that includes multiple options for voting and failsafe provisions to ensure voters who are unable to get to their assigned polling place on Election Day or those whose registration status is in question are able to cast ballots and, once verified, have their votes included in the final, certified returns.
“It is often surprising to the public and media – and agonizing for the candidates and political parties – to have to wait out the final count, but California election law places completeness and accuracy over speed,” said Logan. “And, in the end, our electorate is best served by ensuring every vote counts.”
There are three categories of ballots that make up those that remain to be processed after Election Day:
- Vote by Mail ballots cast and returned by mail in the final days leading up to and on the day of the election as well as mail ballots turned in at polling places on Election Day. State law allows ballots postmarked on or before and received within three business days of the election to be counted. Records must be checked to ensure the same voters did not also appear to vote in person at a polling place on Election Day.
- Additionally, state law requires comparison and verification of voter signatures on all mail ballot return envelopes to the signature on voter registration records prior to counting. Another new state law allows voters who forgot to sign their vote by mail ballot envelope up to eight days after the election to provide a signature.
- Provisional ballots cast by voters who were not listed on the precinct rosters where they appeared to vote or who were listed as having been issued a mail ballot that they misplaced, didn’t receive and/or weren’t able to surrender at the time of voting. These ballots also must be manually reviewed to confirm voter eligibility and undergo signature verification. Once verified, they must be checked to ensure contests and measures counted match up to where the voter is registered.
- Ballots with write-in votes are set aside in the initial vote counting process to allow for a check to ensure no votes were cast in the same contest for a candidate already listed on the ballot. Write-in votes must also be checked against the list of declared write-in candidates and then manually tallied for reporting on the final returns.
- In addition to processing and counting the remaining ballots in the election, county officials must also conduct a series of legally required audit and record keeping processes prior to certifying the results to the Secretary of State.
“All of these activities contribute to the transparency and accountability of the state’s election process,” Logan said.
About the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials
The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) is a non-profit association representing California’s Clerks (responsible for filing and maintaining important documents in the public interest); Clerks of the Board (supporting the Boards of Supervisors by preparing and recording minutes; receives and processes applications for assessment appeals); and Registrars of Voters (responsible for conducting elections throughout California).