Results on election night are always “semifinal, unofficial” and only reflect votes tabulated that day after 8:00 pm. In Nevada County, the outcome of many local contests may not be fully determined until the official canvass period is over – 30 days after November 8th. The reason: Vote-by-mail ballots dropped off on election day at a vote center, drop box or mailed via USPS.

Like clockwork, questions about updated results started coming in early this morning. We hope this explainer will be useful to clarify what remains to be done and what to expect.

What happens before and on Election Day

For the November 8th election 74,225 vote by mail ballots were issued to registered Nevada County voters. Last night, 38.83% of those ballots – 28,824 were counted. The first results of the night (26,213 ballots) were vote-by-mail ballots received before the weekend and early voting at the vote centers.

Vote-by-mail ballots are checked by a team of election workers. Once your ballot is received at the Elections Office, staff will remove the security flap on the envelope. Then, the envelope with your signature is being scanned into the signature verification system. If you forgot to sign your ballot, or the signature does not pass verification, the Elections Office notifies you.

If you have been notified that your vote-by-mail ballot has a missing or mismatched signature, you have the opportunity to cure the problem. Please make sure to complete our Missing or Mismatched Signature Form to have your ballot count. The form is found at the following link: [source: Nevada County Elections Office]

At this point, staff opens the envelope and your ballot is sorted into the correct precinct.

Seven days before the election, Nevada County can start to scan ballots into the tabulation computer. No count is tabulated until November 8th after the close of polls at 8:00 pm. The tabulation results are sent to the Secretary of State (SoS), once their election division acknowledges the receipt of the batch, the results are posted on the county website and distributed to the media present at the Elections Office. (Yours truly and a stringer for the AP got the coveted copies last night.)

Meanwhile, election workers, field inspectors and poll workers collect all the ballots received at the Vote Centers and drop boxes throughout the county. The equipment is being brought back to the Elections Office facilities.

After Election Day – the Official Canvass Period

The California Elections Code requires the official canvass begin no later than the Thursday following the election, that it be open to the public, and that it continue daily (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays excepted) for not less than six hours each day until completed. County elections officials must complete the official canvass no later than the 30th day after the election and submit a certified statement of the results of the election to the Secretary of State by the 31st day.

“This process includes the verification of signatures on every vote-by-mail ballot envelope, the processing of same-day voter registrations, the processing of provisional ballots, and reaching out to voters to provide opportunities for voters to cure missing or mismatched signatures,” stated CA Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber.

Many vote-by-mail ballots are dropped off at vote centers, drop box locations, or arrive at county elections offices on Election Day. Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received by county elections officials no later than seven days after Election Day must be processed during the canvass. Judging by the brisk traffic seen at the Rood Center’s drive-through drop box, Nevada County voters may procrastinate a little but not even rain and snow prevented them from dropping off their ballots.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we expect a first estimate of ballots remaining to be counted. The first result update after election night is expected sometime next week.

Once all the ballots, including provisional ballots and ballots that have to be duplicated (think coffee stains or tears) have been processed, final results and turnout numbers will be certified and this election will be in the books. County elections officials must finalize their official results by December 8. The Secretary of State will certify the results on December 16, 2022.

Editor’s note: Thanks to all the volunteer poll workers, election staff, county staff and especially the team who ferried the votes from Truckee to Nevada City last night in whiteout conditions.