California Counts

A collaboration between Capital Public Radio, KQED, KPCC and KPBS to cover the 2016 elections in California.

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California Vote Count Wraps Up, With Certification Of Results Expected Soon

Mary Plummer | KPCC

FILE: Vote-by-mail ballots are sorted into their appropriate district after arriving at the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder building in Norwalk. FILE: Vote-by-mail ballots are sorted into their appropriate district after arriving at the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder building in Norwalk. Maya Sugarman/ KPCC

As the rest of the country turns to the national political conventions and vice presidential picks, in California, the final counts from the state's primary election results still await certification by the Secretary of State.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla has until Friday to sign off.

The final counts followed a month-long effort handling mail-in ballots arriving days after the primary, resolving provisional ballots that needed manual checking and fixing all manner of issues surrounding the votes. That all came to an end with last Friday's deadline for the 58 counties to submit their results to Padilla.

As a practical matter, all but the most razor-thin races had been called by media outlets shortly or within days after the primary. Certification just makes everything official. 

Now if you think it took California counties a long time to count this year's primary ballots, be forewarned that the general election may take even longer.

"In November, we’ll have, you know, maybe another 4 to 5 million people who are voting in our election," said Mark Baldassare, president of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

More votes to count could mean that counties will need the full allotted time to tally their votes. The popularity of mail ballots in California slows the process, as does a new law allowing ballots to arrive within three days of the election as long as they are postmarked by election day.

Baldassare said the state's slow vote count is largely a result of a lack of sufficient funding for elections. To accurately count votes faster, the Legislature would need to fund better technology for the counties.

"We're in a big state and it's very decentralized, and it's a matter of investing in the latest and the best technologies to count the votes fast and accurately," he said. 

Other improvements to voting are underway — a same-day registration law is likely to go into effect starting in January and the state is close to completing its new, electronic voter database.

These changes will at a minimum ease the way for registration, even if they won't result in same day results.