Will We Know The Winners on February 5th?

Maybe not.

Yesterday, Dean Logan, the acting Registrar-Recorder in Los Angeles County, held a press conference that generated a decent bit of buzz in the local news media yesterday and this morning. I did an interview for KTLA news, with Jim Nash … and heard about this news conference from a variety of other sources.

Our local paper had a good story about the press conference, “Election Officer Asks Voters, Candidates To Be Patient.” Here’s a snip:

“This is a very large-scale and complex election,” Logan said. “It will require patience. Over 25 percent will vote by mail. Many will drop them off at the polls. It will take several days to process the ballots.”

Only about 80 percent of the votes were cast on Election Day in last year’s November races.

“I think that will be similar to this election,” he said. “We want to emphasize accuracy over speed. What’s most important is that their vote get counted accurately and it get recorded in the final returns.”

It’s also possible there will be long lines at the polls, said Logan, suggesting that voters might want to consider voting during the middle of the day.

There appears to be a lot of interest in the election, he said.

For example, about 40,000 people registered to vote from 5 p.m. to midnight last Tuesday – the deadline – when the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office in Norwalk was kept open for that period, he said.

“There’s just a buzz out there,” he said. “You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the election.”

Indeed, there is a great deal of interest in this election, and there are a number of factors that might make for a busy Election Day, and which might delay tabulation of ballots in Los Angeles County — and in other California counties:

  1. With so much interest in the election, as Californians for the first time in recent memory might cast ballots in the presidential primaries that might be influential, there are reports that many new voters are likely to be voting on Election Day: both new registrants, as well as infrequent or occasional voters, who might not be familiar with the process and who might need extra assistance.
  2. Many voters appear to be requesting absentee ballots; if the absentee voting rate is high (it would not be surprising to see a majority of ballots cast statewide coming from absentee voters) and if these absentee ballots some in late (for example, many people wait until the last minute to complete their absentee ballots, and drop them off on Election Day at polling places), this could really slow down the ballot counting process.
  3. Finally, both the Democratic and Republican races in California might be close; this itself could fuel additional interest and turnout, but might also mean that the winners in California may not be known until a very large fraction of ballots are counted.

So the winners of the California primary might not be clear until early on February 6th — and there is a chance that we might be waiting to hear about who won both primaries for a few days after that!