- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Voters in California are bound to have questions about the millions of ballots cast in the Nov. 8 election. Some people may wonder why they had to fill out a provisional ballot or when results will be final. Others may wonder how to verify that their ballots were indeed counted.

Here are answers to some questions about counting ballots:

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HOW MANY BALLOTS MIGHT BE OUTSTANDING AFTER TUESDAY?

The secretary of state’s office reported Wednesday that counties have already counted nearly 10 million ballots. A record 19.4 million Californians registered to vote in the presidential election, but it’s still not clear what overall turnout will be, as millions of ballots are outstanding.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of data firm Political Data Inc., had said as many as 3 million ballots may remain to be counted after Election Day. He posted on Twitter Wednesday that the number of remaining ballots may be higher.

The lag will likely delay results in several close races, including Proposition 53, an initiative to block Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build twin tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento River delta and tight congressional races in the Sacramento and San Diego areas.

In any case, that’s because the state has more than 11 million people registered to vote-by-mail whose ballots may still be coming in. Also, there was a surge in last-minute voters who will probably have to cast provisional ballots.

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WHAT ARE PROVISIONAL BALLOTS?

Poll workers give provisional backup ballots to people whose voter eligibility cannot be verified immediately.

For example, voters will be given a provisional ballot if they show up to vote at the wrong polling site. They will be given a provisional ballot if they showed up at a polling site unaware that they have ballots at home that they need to surrender before they can get a new ballot.

Provisional ballots are just like regular ballots. They are counted once the county verifies that the person is properly registered to vote, and that the person has not already cast a ballot.

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WILL ALL BALLOTS BE COUNTED, EVEN AFTER A WINNER IS DECLARED?

Yes, all valid ballots are counted. Counties do not stop processing ballots just because a winner has been declared or a campaign has conceded.

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HOW DO I FIND OUT IF MY BALLOT WAS COUNTED?

Voters who cast a provisional ballot or who mailed in a ballot have a right to know if their ballot was counted and if not, the reason why it was not counted.

Contact your county elections office for that information.

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I FORGOT TO SIGN MY MAIL-IN BALLOT. WHAT CAN I DO?

State law allows voters to fix the problem by submitting a signature by Nov. 16. Some counties will proactively contact the voter; others will not. Again, contact your county elections office for information.

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WHY CAN’T COUNTIES HURRY UP AND COUNT?

“It’s our goal to make sure it’s done correctly, not quickly,” said Melissa Hickok, executive assistant to Contra Costa County’s recorder-registrar, where about 150,000 ballots were still to be processed Wednesday. “We want to make sure we get it right. We want to make sure provisionals are counted if countable and we want to make sure people do not double vote.”

In Santa Clara, spokeswoman Anita Torres said staff are working around the clock to process ballots. It’s taking longer this year, she said, because of high turnout and the number of issues on the ballot. The county has about 200,000 vote-by-mail ballots waiting to be processed.

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WHEN WILL RESULTS BE FINAL?

It may take days or even weeks to get final election results.

That’s because it takes time for counties to check all those provisional ballots. Also, mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 8 will be counted if they are received by your county election office within 3 days after the election. Because of the Veteran’s Day holiday, that day extends to Nov. 14 this year.

State law requires county elections officials to report final results to the secretary of state for presidential electors by December 6. The deadline for all other contests is December 9.


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