Election results? Sit back and wait
Millions of votes are left to be counted. It’s normal: California’s just really, really big.
An eager nation waits breathlessly as California counts its election ballots.
Well, not an entire nation. Just a bunch of political obsessives and some candidates in limbo, anxious to find out whether they’re headed to Washington as lawmakers or have a little extra time on their hands to draw up that perfect Thanksgiving menu.
Nearly 5 million ballots remain to be counted statewide, leaving four congressional contests, in the Central Valley and Orange County, still to be decided.
Democrats have already picked up two seats in Cali- fornia, in the high desert
outside Los Angeles and in coastal Orange and San Diego counties, and they could gain as many as four more once the final results are known.
Elections are sacred, part of the majesty of our democratic process, renewing and replenishing our republic, like fresh water to a spring. Thus, the prolonged tabulations are wreathed in a swelling chorus heard throughout the land: What the heck is taking so long?!
The short answer is there are just a whole lot of votes to be counted, a result of policies enacted to encourage the greatest voter participation possible and, once votes are cast, to make every effort to ensure those ballots are properly counted.
The election was Tuesday!
And votes have been pouring in ever since. Any mail-in ballot postmarked by midnight, Nov. 6 — election day — will be counted, so long as it was received by Friday’s close of business.
So it’s not as though elections officials are out surfing or lingering over their macrobiotic tofu-and-beansprout sandwiches while ballots stack up uncounted. The overwhelming majority of ballots cast were sent by mail, and many arrived on or after election day.
And don’t forget California is big. Really big. The state has nearly 20 million registered voters. Two counties alone — Los Angeles and Orange — have more voters than 30 states.
And it takes work to make sure every ballot that’s cast is legitimate.
That may mean looking up an individual’s address or verifying his or her signature. Or routing a mail ballot, dropped off at the wrong polling location, to its appropriate county for processing.
There are also a ton of provisional ballots that need to be processed.
If people show up and are not on the voter roll, due to, say, a clerical error or because they’re in the wrong place, they are nevertheless allowed to cast their vote. Those need to be checked out afterward.
California also has sameday registration, which means further work verifying a whole lot of ballots.
All that takes time. A lot more time than it takes in a state such as Wyoming, with 275,000 voters — which is about as many as Sonoma County, in Northern California’s wine country. So who’s left hanging?
The race in the 10th District, in the San Joaquin Valley, is too close to call. Threeterm GOP Rep. Jeff Denham was slightly ahead of Democratic rival Josh Harder.
In Orange County, there are three races up in the air.
Republican Young Kim holds a narrow lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros in the race to fill the seat vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce in a district that also includes parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Two-term Republican incumbent Mimi Walters was ahead of Democratic challenger Katie Porter in inland Orange County.
Along the coast, Democratic challenger Harley Rouda enjoys a healthy lead over Republican Dana Rohrabacher in his bid to oust the 15-term incumbent.
There are tens of thousands of ballots still to be counted in those contests.
So who’s going to win?
With rare exceptions, close races in California tend to move in Democrats’ direction — typically by 2 percentage points, according to Political Data, a firm that tracks voter trends. So several of those seats could tip away from the GOP.
The reason is that early voters, typically older white Californians who begin mailing ballots weeks before election day, lean Republican. Democrats, many of them young and minority, prefer to vote in person or mail their ballots in later.
Recent history bears this out. To cite just two examples from 2014, Republican Carl DeMaio led by a few hundred votes the day after the Nov. 4 election, but mail and provisional ballots in succeeding days boosted San Diego Democrat Scott Peters into the lead and a return to Congress.
In the same election, Democratic Rep. Ami Bera trailed for over a week before pulling ahead and winning reelection against Republican challenger Doug Ose in the Sacramento suburbs.
So will this go on forever?
No, the secretary of state will officially certify the final results in mid-December.
Yep. On Dec. 14. So chill. Go surf. Or fix yourself a macrobiotic sandwich.
MAIL-IN BALLOTS are sorted Wednesday at the L.A. County registrar’s office. With nearly 5 million votes uncounted statewide, some races are still undecided.