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How Your Vote Is Counted

Published on: 10/20/2014 12:47 PM
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The polls close at 8:00 pm on Election Night, but it usually takes hours for all precincts to show results, and weeks before the final totals are known. Ever wondered why? Here's a quick look at what happens to your ballot after you cast it.
 
Election Night
 
  • The first results are posted shortly after 8:00 pm - these are the Vote by Mail ballots that were returned early
  • After that, we have to wait for the first of the polling place precincts across the county to complete their paperwork, pack up their supplies, and return the ballots - this can take more than an hour
  • As precincts arrive, their ballots are counted by high-speed scanners and added to the total results
  • The posted results are updated periodically throughout the night - the results web page will show how many precincts have reported and the time of the last update
  • When all precincts have reported, the Election Night counting is done; however, there are still more ballots to count and a lot more work to do before the results become official (see below)
     
Post-Election Canvass

California Elections Code requires the Registrar of Voters to perform a post-election canvass before certifying the final results. The canvass period usually lasts for 28 days after an election. During this time, ROV counts all remaining valid ballots and performs a series of mandated audits to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election.
 
Election Results will be updated daily during the Canvass period.
 
Ballots counted after Election Day
 
  • "Last Minute" Vote by Mail Ballots: Vote by Mail ballots that arrive on Election Day are processed and counted starting the next day; these take longer to count than a precinct ballot because they have to be signature-verified; most of these are counted by the Friday after the election
  • Provisional Ballots: these are the last ballots counted because they have to be researched & verified; it may take a few weeks, but every valid vote will be counted
  • Damaged/Unreadable Ballots: some ballots are torn, damaged, or marked in such a way that the tallying machines can't read them and require additional processing
  • Write-In Votes: when the voter writes in the name of a candidate, that vote must be tallied manually
Audits
 
  • Review of all paperwork completed at the precincts to make sure all ballots are accounted for
  • Manual recount of ballots from a random 1% sample of precincts to ensure that vote tabulation equipment is working accurately