NEVADA CITY, Calif. October 27, 2016 – Results on election night are always “semifinal, unofficial” and only reflect votes counted that day after 8:00 pm. In Nevada County, the outcome of local races 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 polling place or the Elections Office.
With over 50,000 vote-by-mail ballots issued for the November election, calling local races and measures will hinge on voters returning their voted ballots before Friday, Nov. 4th. By mailing your ballot in before election day, your vote will be counted on election night – adding to the accuracy of election night outcomes.
The process for vote-by-mail ballots in Nevada County
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.
The Elections Office website explains what happens if a voter forgot to sign the envelope as follows:
Missing Signature On Ballot Envelope
- Signs the ballot envelope at our office during regular business hours before 5:00 p.m. on the eighth day after the election.
- Completes an Unsigned Ballot Statement and submits it to our office before 5:00 p.m. on the eighth day after the election.
- Completes an Unsigned Ballot Statement and submits it to any polling place or official ballot dropoff box before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
Once scanned, the signature is compared to the signature on the voter registration. If it passes muster, the ballot is accepted. You can check the status of your ballot here: http://reports.nevcounty.net/ELAVStats/
At this point, staff opens the envelope and your ballot will be sorted into the correct precinct.
Seven days before the election, Nevada County can start to scan ballots into the tabulation computer.
No count will be tabulated until November 8th at 8:01 pm.
Election night results
On election night, the first results published – generally around 8:30 pm – are the total count of vote-by-mail ballots received before Friday, Nov. 4th. As of Wednesday evening, 51,464 ballots have been issued and 9,062 have been returned.
Subsequent partial results are polling place ballots. Field inspectors gather the memory cards from the various polling places and also deliver any vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling places.
All vote-by-mail ballots received on election day will have to go through the process outlined above and will be counted during the official canvass period.
It is not unusual to see 15,000-20,000 ballots remaining to be counted at the end of election night. Local tax measures, like Measure A, require a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass. “Procrastinator ballots” could keep everyone in suspense until December 7th.
The official canvass
The California Elections Code requires that 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. The 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.
By law, the activities undertaken during the official canvass include:
- Processing and counting any valid vote-by-mail and provisional ballots not included in the semifinal official canvass. Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names do not appear on the precinct roster. The voter uses a regular precinct ballot which is then placed in a special envelope that the voter must sign, much like a vote-by-mail envelope. During the official canvass, the elections official checks the voter registration file to verify the voter’s eligibility to cast the ballot. Once verified, the ballot is added to the official count. These ballots added to the vote-by-mail ballots not processed on election night can number 500,000 to over 1,000,000 [for all of California].
- An inspection of all materials and supplies returned by poll workers.
- A reconciliation of the number of signatures on the roster with the number of ballots recorded on the ballot statement.
- A reconciliation of the number of ballots counted, spoiled, canceled, or invalidated due to identifying marks or overvotes with the number of votes counted, including vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.
- Counting any valid write-in votes.
- Reproducing any damaged ballots, if necessary.
- Conducting a hand count of the ballots cast in one (1) percent of the precincts, chosen at random by the elections official.
- Reporting final results to the Secretary of State, as required.
No later than the 38th day after the election, the Secretary of State must determine the votes cast for candidates for state and federal office and for the statewide ballot measures, certify those results, and issue certificates of nomination/election to those candidates who were nominated/elected. [source: CA Secretary of State]