About Late Vote Counts – Dave Del Rio Bumps Mary Muse from School Board
In Updated vote counts, David Del Rio has taken 2nd place in a two-position race for seats on the El Dorado Union High School District Board. He bumps Mary Muse from second place on the earlier count beating her by 16 votes. However, the vote outcome could change again.
Two factors have led to bigger changes in late vote counts in El Dorado County:
- Significant increases of “Vote by Mail” ballots;
- the tendency of many voters to turn those mail-in ballots late or at the polling location on the day of the election.
There is nothing wrong or nefarious with this practice but it does have an effect on when we get voting results.
Years ago, the great majority of votes were cast on Election Day and were tallied at individual precincts on the same night. Only a small number of ballots requiring “special” handling after that night were added to the total. Today we have so many voters that vote-by-mail, also called “absentee” ballots that the process is very different. More than half the ballots cast in El Dorado County were mail-in ballots with 74,664 mailed out to voters in the county. More than 63,000 mail-in ballots were returned to be counted for the vote.
Voters receive their mail ballots a month before the election. Some people vote right away and mail them back. Some vote right away but hold their ballots in case something should cause them to change their vote late in the election. Others just have not made their decisions yet and fill their ballot out later.
When the election department gets the early mail ballots, they begin secretly verifying them. Mail ballots are individually verified to ensure that the voter signature on the outside ballot envelops matches the county voter record. It is also check to ensure it is properly dated. After it passes verification it is separated from the outside envelop and the ballot is processed. These early votes are counted, but the count totals are keep a strict secret until after the polls close on election night.
If there is some question as to the signature or date, the elections department often contacts the voter in an effort to ensure that every valid ballot is counted. It can take days or weeks for the voter to respond.
Election Results Reporting.
On election night, the polls close and the counting begins for all ballots cast on Election Day and those mail ballots cast in the final days of the election and/or turned-in at the polling place.
The first results posted on the Elections Department website are the mail votes that were counted earlier. Now that the election is concluded, the secret is revealed.
The Next set of reported votes come from the regular ballots cast on election day. In this election that is about 30,000 votes. As the polls close each polling place, the elections officials are busy counting the ballots cast and performing a closing procedure. This take about 1-2 hours. As soon as that process is completed, the ballots are rushed to the elections department where the regular ballots are quickly counted. These results are the first updates we see posted to the Elections website about an hour or two after the polling has closed. Ballots from precincts close to the Elections department come in faster than those from outlying areas like Lake Tahoe because of the travel time to the county offices.
Now sometime late into the night, we have most of the ballots processed and the vote totals complete when every precinct has reported in, but we are not done yet. We have only counted the early mail-in ballots & the day of election regular ballots. There are still about 15,000 uncounted late-arriving mail-in ballots and "Provisional" ballots yet to be counted. There are always some “provisional” ballots that need special handling and they cannot be processed before the mail-in ballot are completed.
The later arriving mail-in ballots.
Without the late mail-in ballots or provisional ballots, we have only counted 67% of an estimated 81% of ballots that were cast by registered voters in El Dorado County (El Dorado County usually gets slightly over 85% voter turnout in a Presidential election). That left about 13,000 votes still to be counted. In the days following the election, those later mail ballots have to go through the verification process as the earlier ballots did. By Friday afternoon the Elections Department updated the vote count to reflect outstanding ballots that had been processed and counted. We are now at 78% return. “We’re still counting 2,400 provisional ballots and 400 ballots that were ripped or torn and have to be repaired before they can go through the machines,” said El Dorado County Recorder-Clerk-Registrar of Voters and Department of Veteran’s Affairs Director Bill Schultz on Nov. 13.”In the final analysis, I’m predicting our voter turn-out will be 80 to 81 percent.”
Trends in late ballots.
In a dynamic race, the voters may be changing their minds as the last month passes. When looking at the first results released, the earlier mail-in ballots we get an idea of where the voters stood a week or two or three before the election. A trend change we see from those early votes to Election Day votes indicates a trend in the change of voter’s decisions. The trend is usually carried through as the later mail-in ballots are processes as they also represent votes cast late in that one month voting window.