SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — A surge of mail-in ballots has local election officials warning there might be delays in calling races in 2020.
“I think we can expect the final, final results will be delayed,” said Janna Haynes from the Sacramento County Registrar’s Office.
In California, the state’s nearly 20 million registered voters were mailed paper ballots this election season.
Many have already filled them out and hand-delivered them at drop boxes while others have sent them back through the mail.
Haynes told FOX40 that election offices up and down California will have 17 days after Election Day to tally mail-in votes, compared to the traditional three days.
“December 1st is the final day that we need to certify, and then the state counts all county data and they certify the vote for entire California,” Haynes explained.
Election officials will be going through each paper vote to confirm ballot signatures are signed by the voter.
“A machine actually takes a photo of the signature on the ballot, does a signature match to the file. We have also a humanized look at those signatures, particularly if the machine feels that it doesn’t match,” Haynes explained. “We have to open the envelopes and pull out the ballots to make sure it’s anonymous from the envelope identifier. We also do a quality control check on the papers to ensure that the paper doesn’t have any imperfections.”
Sacramento County has experience with large volumes of mail-in ballots as one of the first California counties to implement the Voter’s Choice Act and hold an all-mail-in election in the 2018 midterms.
“We’ve already been set up for this. We have infrastructure in place, have all the equipment that we need,” Haynes said. “So, we’re very lucky we didn’t have to make massive, sweeping changes right before the election to accommodate for the pandemic.”
But smaller elections offices have far less practice managing the influx, which is a reason why Haynes encourages Californians to vote early to ensure their vote is counted by Election Day.
She said some races, especially at the local level, might not be called until weeks later.
“Those few votes may be the difference between the final results,” Haynes said. “So, it’s very important that no one calls races of any kind until we certify the vote.”