Even though the 2012 general election was held almost a week ago, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office — as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, November 9 — still had not counted 27 percent of the total ballots cast. The remaining 325,000 ballots are mail-in (absentee) or provisional ballots.
While county officials up and down the state touted this year's increased use of mail-in ballots, the high voter turnout created an unexpected backlog in tallying last Tuesday's count.
At least five area races are still in play, waiting for the final ballots to be counted. Contests in the third district county supervisorial race, Brian Bilbray's 52nd congressional district, and one seat on the Vista City Council each had less than one-half of a percentage point separating the possible winning candidates on November 9.
Two increased tax measures that would raise almost half a billion dollars each for both San Dieguito High School and MiraCosta College districts are currently failing — but by slim margins.
About 100,000 of the remaining uncounted votes are provisional ballots, which are used by voters who show up at the wrong polling place; when registrar records indicate a voter has moved or is no longer registered; or when a voter has ordered an absentee ballot but shows up to vote anyway.
Unlike the 800,000 paper ballots cast countywide on election day (which are quickly scanned and reported within a few hours of the polls closing), each absentee/provisional ballot must have the voter's signature verified and reconciled to see if the vote will count.
Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler said she expects her staff to be able to count about 30,000 absentee/provisional ballots per day. Her staff will be working through the weekend. She pointed out that the registrar does not judge any race as too close to call or predict the possibility of a changing tally. “The media does that; we only report the vote totals,” Seiler said.
If a race ends up very close, it would be up to an individual candidate or campaign to request a vote recount. County registrars have a December 4 deadline to certify elections as final and accurate to the Secretary of State.
This reporter remembers well how vote tallies can change. In 1984, I ran for a seat on the San Dieguito Water District. I went to bed on election night a winner, by 234 votes; by the time all the votes were counted, I lost by 8. (I did not ask for a recount.)