- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thanks to California’s voting system, it’s going to be a long night for ballot counters in California and East Coasters eager for Super Tuesday results.

“We have a huge tabulation problem in California,” Republican pollster Wayne Johnson tells The Washington Times. “Millions of votes are coming in today that won”t be counted for days. Paper ballots will delay many counties from reporting until approximately 6 a.m. tomorrow.”

Stephen Weir, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, also is warning primary-election watchers that results won’t be known till the wee hours of tomorrow and that the full picture may not emerge for days.

“The East Coast is going to tune in the next morning, and we are still going to be counting,” Mr. Weir was quoted in a blog in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why? An expected high turnout. Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s requirement that nearly two dozen counties substitute paper ballots for their electronic voting machines. Plus, many voters “are holding onto their mail-in ballots until the last minute. Election workers have to compare their signatures on the ballot to their voter registration cards, a time-consuming process.”

Mr. Weir’s talks with election officials across the state yielded this guide for when election results will start trickling in:

•By 8 p.m. in California, 11 p.m. on the East Coast, after the polls close, the state’s 58 counties will start to report the results of the mail-in ballots received and counted during the past month. Mr. Weir “expects about 3 million votes to be reported — overall he’s predicting 56 percent of the state’s 15.7 million voters will cast ballots,” the Chronicle reported.

•By 8:30 p.m. California time (11:30 p.m. in the District) county registrars will post results from small precincts of fewer than 250 voters. These precincts, required to vote by mail, “represent about 2.5 percent of the state’s electorate, or 380,000 voters.”

•Between 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. in California, voting results will trickle in. Small-population counties will report first. The pace of reporting usually picks up at about 10:30 p.m. Counties are required to send results to the secretary of state’s office every two hours.

•Between 11:30 p.m. today and 2 a.m. tomorrow, California time, Mr. Weir “expects much of Northern California to have reported results from the precincts. There will be some big exceptions, however: Sacramento County, because of problems with equipment that counts votes in the field, will bring all the ballots to be counted in the central office, which could delay results between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.” That’s between 9 a.m. and noon on the East Coast.

•By 4 a.m. in Los Angeles County — where about 25 percent of votes in California are cast — all ballots cast in its precincts will be reported.

•By 6 a.m. in Santa Clara County, slowed by having to count paper ballots, officials expect to have all its precinct votes counted.

•Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties — all forced to shift away from their electronic voting machines — should have reported their precinct totals.

The wild card: In November 2006, nearly 2 million ballots were not included in the election-night totals. These were mostly mail-in ballots turned in the last day, plus provisional and damaged ballots. With turnout expected to be higher this year, Mr. Weir said, “We expect even more this time.”

Those ballots could represent 20 percent to 25 percent of the vote and could take days or even weeks to count.

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