If the House comes down to California, get ready to wait

California's voting rules could mean key races don't get decided for days — or weeks.

By Kevin Yamamura,
November 5, 2018


SACRAMENTO — An election night blue wave Tuesday could slow down considerably by the time it reaches the California coast, making the rest of America wait to see who will control the House in 2019.

Forget staying up all night to find out who won congressional seats here: Strategists and campaign experts say it could take days — if not weeks — to determine victors in a series of tight and closely watched midterm races in Southern California.

The potential long wait is the product of generous provisions for California voters backed by the state's governing Democratic majority, and the continued abandonment of polling places in favor of mail-in ballots, which require more time to count and verify.


In a state leading the digital revolution, California voters love voting by mail, and the state has encouraged it. For seven consecutive statewide elections, a majority have submitted ballots by mail.

And they love to procrastinate, said Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. He's expecting 60 percent of his county's 1.6 million voters to use mail ballots. Of those, 35 percent or more will turn them in at polling places or mailboxes on Election Day.

"Right there, you have another 10 days on top of the process," Kelley said.


Signatures — mismatched or missing altogether — are one of the biggest challenges in counting mail ballots, according to Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan group that has advocated many of the recent changes. It’s the main way counties verify that a vote is legitimate.

In the past, a bad signature might have meant a vote was tossed out. But a September state law requires counties to give at least eight days’ notice to voters whose ballot is jeopardized by a questionable signature.

Alexander said she'd rather have registrars take their time than succumb to pressures to accelerate results.

“The media has framed elections as a one-day sale, and it’s not the case anymore,” Alexander said. “Elections are a one-month-long activity now in our state, and certifying the elections are a one-month activity.” (full story)