Tuesday, February 05, 2008

California Style Vote Counting

California has same day undeclared voter registration, too? Like New Jersey?

In California, the media can't possibly determine who has won until all of the mail in ballots have been tallied and the central counts are completed which will include polling place ballots.

High Absentee Ballots Threaten State Tally
California elections officials predict that nearly 13 percent of all ballots cast for the Feb. 5 primary could go uncounted on Election Night, possibly slowing the presidential tally in the nation's most delegate-rich state.

The reason is twofold: More Californians than ever before are expected to vote by mail, and the unsettled nature of the Republican and Democratic races may prompt many of those voters to wait until the last minute to submit ballots.

About half of all ballots cast for the election are expected to come by mail, up from 33 percent in the 2004 presidential primary. Registrars say that could lead to a backlog of ballots on Election Night, potentially delaying the announcement of winners in close races.

Compounding the Election Night worries is that the vote count could be slowed even before mail-in ballots are taken into account.

One reason is new restrictions imposed by the Secretary of State's office on electronic voting systems used in some of California's most populous counties, including San Diego and Riverside. They are among the counties shifting the majority of precinct voters away from touchscreen machines and back to paper ballots.

Those ballots will have to be counted centrally using the same scanners normally dedicated to plowing through the absentee vote because counties were not able to acquire enough machines to perform tallies at individual polling places.


Mail vs. precinct voting

Voting by mail has become increasingly popular in California and in other states. Not too long ago the proportion of residents opting to vote by mail was in single digits. In both presidential and off-year elections, there has been a steady increase in the proportion and numbers of Californians voting by mail.

The Field Poll estimates that of the 8.9 million total votes cast, mail ballots will account for 4.1 million, the largest number for any previous California primary election.

Growing number of permanent mail ballot voters

One of the reasons behind the growing number of votes cast by mail in recent elections relates to the recent rapid growth in the number of registered voters who have signed up as permanent mail ballot registrants. Since this alternative first became available to voters in 2001, nearly 4.7 million Californians now automatically receive their election ballots sent to them by mail before each election.

The Field Poll estimates that about 3.5 million of the permanent mail ballot registrants will return a ballot in this year’s primary. They will be joined by another 600,000 voters who will likely return their ballots by mail after requesting one for this specific election or because they live in a precinct or county where only mail ballot voting is allowed.


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