Forget election night results. Answers might take days or weeks in some L.A. races

By Julia Wick,
Los Angeles Times,
November 7, 2022


Celebratory confetti blanketed the Grove on primary night, as developer Rick Caruso — then sporting a multipoint lead in the Los Angeles mayor’s race — declared his to be a “victory story.”

Across town in Highland Park, an exhausted Eunisses Hernandez had already headed home from her election night party at a local bar. Her opponent, incumbent Councilmember Gil Cedillo, was leading by more than 10 percentage points. Hernandez remained hopeful, though some supporters had begun mourning what they thought to be a loss.

But fortune can be a fickle mistress on election night.

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In the June 2022 election, more than 90% of ballots cast statewide were vote-by-mail ballots and nearly 48 hours after polls closed, less than half of all ballots had been counted, according to an analysis by Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation.

Contrast those 2022 stats with the November 2004 election: Less than a third of statewide ballots were cast by mail, and more than 80% had been counted by 5 p.m. two days after the election, Alexander said.

Because mail-ballots take significantly longer to process, a large crush of people voting by mail on or just before election day creates what Alexander described as '''the pig in the python phenomenon’ — where you just have this giant wad of ballots moving through the process.”

Ballots postmarked by election day are also accepted for up to seven days in California. That means the total number of ballots cast won’t be certain until well into next week, making it difficult for experts to gauge how much results may shift in the days immediately following the election.

Experts and election officials stress that California’s comparatively slow vote counts are a feature of a working democratic system, not a bug.

After a two-decade push to provide more options and protections, it’s easier to vote in California than almost anywhere in the nation. But some of those elements create more work for election officials on the back end.

“The reason we take so long is we’re verifying all the ballots and making sure only valid ballots are being counted,” Alexander said. “So it’s a function of election security — the very election security people who criticize slow vote counts are demanding.” (Full Story)