The final outcome of close election races in Alameda County may not be known until some time next week because there are still 122,000 ballots that must be counted. County Registrar Dave MacDonald said this morning that there are about 90,000 absentee and 32,000 provisional ballots that must be tallied. MacDonald also acknowledged that it won’t be possible to count them all by tomorrow, as many observers had hoped.
In fact, the registrar of voters has not yet sorted the ballots because there are so many of them. As a result, it’s unclear how many came from Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro, which all still have undecided election races. But based on the number of ballots cast so far, Oakland may have more than 25,000 ballots left to count.
Late absentees are ballots that voters fill out at home and then turn in at the polls on Election Day, along with those that were mailed late and arrived Tuesday at the registrar’s office. Provisional ballots come from voters who arrive at a polling place, but their names are not on the official roster for that particular location.
Unfortunately, counting those ballots is a slow process. They have to be sorted to make sure that ballots from the same jurisdiction are counted together. Then the signature on each absentee ballot must be matched with the voter's registration form. Registrar staffers also must verify that the voter had not already voted. The process for sorting and counting provisional ballots includes a similarly laborious process.
In the 2006 Oakland mayoral election, it took the registrar’s office ten days to count all the late absentees and provisionals before declaring Ron Dellums the winner. And MacDonald said his office received even more such ballots in this year’s election — although his office appears to be much better prepared this year.
Yesterday, the registrar’s office was able to count about 6,500 late absentees and provisionals. The office plans to post an update with the ballots it has counted today at 4 p.m.