California Still Has More Than 250,000 Uncounted Ballots
November 11: Ballots scanning and tabulation of votes in progress at Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) Tally Room on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 in Downey, CA.
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

While Arizona’s handling of the midterm election has been the focus of media outlets and pundits for some time, California still has more than 250,000 uncounted ballots across the state.

It’s been more than two weeks since America voted in the 2022 midterms, yet the largest state in the country is still counting ballots. The vast majority of the uncounted ballots are from people who voted by mail, with Sacramento County failing to count a whopping 84,000 mail-in ballots.

“Thanksgiving is upon us, and California will still have at least 250,000 leftover uncounted ballots after the holiday,” Rob Pyers, research director for the non-partisan California Target Book, wrote on Twitter.

Sacramento had the most outstanding ballots with 89,000 (including the mail-in ballots and 5,000 provisional ballots), followed by nearby Placer County with just under 39,000 left to count. Los Angeles County had the third-most uncounted ballots, with 15,105.

The remaining ballots represent a tiny fraction of the total votes cast in the Golden State in 2022, but it’s prompted some to ask what is taking so long.

The answer is simple: In 2020, during the pandemic, California, along with other states, began mailing ballots to all registered voters. The practice became permanent in 2021, CNN reported, and ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must be accepted for up to seven days after the polls close.

California, being the most populous state in the country with more than 22 million registered voters, means that millions of ballots come in by mail. In 2020, 15 million people in the state voted by mail – 87% of the total votes. This year should see a smaller percentage, but the number will still be staggering.

CNN reported that the state would continue to process votes until December 8, meaning the election results will not be certified by California’s secretary of state until December 16.

“It’s just a huge electorate and in some of the counties – LA County, Orange County, even Kern County where the [GOP Rep. David] Valadao race is – there are a lot of people living there and a lot of ballots that have to be counted,” Christian Grose, academic director at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, told CNN. “With that ‘week after’ deadline, really the counting starts in earnest now. They really will be finishing the counting in the next week or two instead of the immediate day after Election Day.”

And while 250,000 seems like a big number, it does appear as though California is working quickly to count the ballots. On November 16, the state still had 2.8 million uncounted ballots, so it’s processed more than 2.5 million in the past eight days.

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