California delivered Republicans the seat they needed Wednesday to take control of the U.S. House, but just how much of an edge the GOP will have in the chamber remains uncertain as the state’s seemingly drawn-out vote count continues.
After the balance of power in Washington sat in limbo for days, Republican incumbent Mike Garcia's victory in the 27th Congressional District finally won the party its 218th seat. Five of the seven other races The Associated Press has yet to call are in California, though one is between two Democrats.
In some of those races, ballots are coming in at a trickle.
Placer County in California's 3rd Congressional District, for example, reports that it has more than 105,000 outstanding ballots. The county added just 490 votes to its totals in the district Tuesday, and it doesn't expect to report results again until Friday.
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More money and better equipment could potentially speed things up. But that wouldn't change the deadlines that elections offices have to complete their work.
Many counties hire temporary workers to help, and some have to rent out warehouses or large office spaces to handle the large number of ballots, Johnston said.
Voters could also help the process move faster — mail ballots can be counted starting 29 days before Election Day, but many people wait until the last minute to turn theirs in.
Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for equal access to voting and more funding for elections, said the state could do more outreach to people about getting their ballots in sooner, and providing more early in-person voting opportunities could also help.
California's large number of voters and congressional districts, plus all of the options for casting ballots, can lead to more waiting than in other states, Alexander said.
“It’s a trade-off,” she said. “I think people have learned to be patient and that this is something we’re learning to live with. But I do think that we're also going to keep looking for ways to improve the process.” (Full Story)