Why it could take weeks to get final L.A. election results. ‘We aren’t sitting on ballots’

By Julia Wick & Connor Sheets,
Los Angeles Times,
November 10, 2022


An adage known as the election administrator’s prayer goes something like this: “Dear Lord, let this election not be close.”

When results are overwhelmingly clear, there are far fewer doubts about the integrity of the election process or frustrations with the procedures. 

But in Tuesday’s hotly contested Los Angeles mayor’s race between Rick Caruso and Karen Bass, as well as some down-ballot contests, the results are not overwhelmingly clear. In fact, it could take weeks to determine a winner in some races.

California’s shift to mail-in balloting means that voting begins weeks before election day and tabulation continues for weeks after, meaning results can remain murky in all but the most lopsided races immediately following an election. 

Vote-by-mail ballots take longer to process, particularly when a massive number of them arrive all at once on election day, officials and experts said Wednesday. That makes the entire tabulation process lengthier, with less immediate certainty about how many ballots remain or whether the later tranches will look substantially different.

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But pre-election polling grew less accurate as the internet made cheaper online polling with non-random sampling more readily available. And exit polls don’t hold the weight they once did for a variety of reasons, Krosnick said.

Still, Krosnick emphasized that lengthy waiting periods for results were hardly unheard of in the past, citing the 2000 presidential election as a particularly notorious example.

“The older a voter is, the more they’re going to be used to instant gratification” on election night, Krosnick said. “The younger a voter is, the more they’ve lived in this newer world, where the networks are not making calls quickly, where the polls are not trusting predictors of the election and where voting by mail is prevalent.”

As a result, younger voters are less likely to be frustrated by a slower process, Krosnick said.

Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the sheer number of L.A. County voters means the process is far more time-intensive here than in other counties.

People should “calm down and give the election staff time to do their job,” Alexander said. (Full Story)