Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still counting the votes in California.....

Votes are still being counted in many California counties, which have 28 days to certify the election. According to the latest numbers available on the Secretary of State's web site, approximately 12.5 million ballots have been cast and counted as of this afternoon. The Unprocessed Ballot Status report has not been updated since November 13, when it showed 1.8 million provisional and vote-by-mail ballots remaining to be counted. It is likely we will end up with about 14 million voters having participated in the November 4 Presidential election, which would represent an approximately 80 percent turnout of registered voters and exceed the both the number and percentage participating in the 2004 Presidential election (when approximately 12.6 million Californians, representing 76% of registered voters voted.)

As of November 13, nine counties had completed their ballot counts. All nine of these counties (Alpine, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Plumas and Sierra) are relatively small; among them, Lassen has the greatest number of precincts, with 44 in all, compared to the largest county, Los Angeles, with 4,883 precincts. While the election is over for many people, in several large California counties employees are working hard to get the remaining votes counted and results finalized by the December 2 certification deadline.

On November 6, I visited the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters' office to get a first-hand look at the operation. There were dozens of people at work all throughout the office on various tasks - duplicating ballots that could not be read by scanners, scanning signatures on vote-by-mail ballots, comparing vote-by-mail and provisional ballot signatures to registration signatures on computer screens (with campaign staffers standing over their shoulders watching them do it), sorting through vote-by-mail ballot envelopes to make sure every ballot is removed, and inputting participation data from pollbooks into the county's computerized voter participation database, among other tasks. It is a herculean administrative undertaking, and it will be an incredible feat for the larger counties in the state to get the job done by the deadline.

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