There’s a lot of counting left: 1 million ballots remain in LA County elections

With several critical races from Tuesday’s election still undecided and resolution possibly days or weeks away, Los Angeles County officials said on Wednesday the extended timeline is necessary due to the standard surge of last-minute vote-by-mail ballots received on Election Day.

Following the release of the semi-official vote tally early Wednesday, races including Los Angeles mayor, Los Angeles County sheriff, county supervisor and Los Angeles Unified School District board seats remained too close to call, pending a count of all remaining outstanding ballots.

The delay has prompted some frustration at the length of the vote-counting process. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday sought to explain the reasoning behind the delay.

On social media, the office posted a photo of extensive stacks of vote-by-mail ballots that were received from the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday. The office was also sorting through an undetermined number of such ballots that were submitted at the last minute at drop boxes and vote centers.

Late Wednesday, the registrar’s office announced that there were roughly 1 million ballots still left to be counted from Tuesday’s election — 985,000 vote-by-mail ballots; 21,000 conditional voter-registration ballots; and 300 provisional, or questioned, ballots.

“There was — and typically is — a surge of vote-by-mail ballots returned on Election Day — through the mail, at drop boxes and at vote centers,” according to the office. “Much of the work today is organizing the volumes of ballots received and establishing estimates responsive to queries.”

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The county is scheduled to release the next vote-counting update on Friday, with subsequent updates each Tuesday and Friday until all ballots are tallied. The schedule means that some close races could hang in the balance for weeks.

Registrar officials also noted that the office will continue to accept ballots in the mail that were postmarked by Tuesday. They also noted that all of the vote-by-mail ballots must undergo signature-verification to ensure they are valid before they are counted, a process that extends the timeline.

Releasing updates on Tuesdays and Fridays also means that each update will include a larger number of new ballots, making the updates more “substantive” and “leading to more definitive results trends.”

“Simultaneously, legally required post-election canvass activities that include reconciliation, randomly selected manual count auditing of election night returns and contacting voters on signature verification or unsigned ballot issues must be conducted,” according to the registrar’s office. “All of these activities ensure that all valid ballots are processed accurately and completely leading to the certification of the returns.”

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