Overview of Results Reporting
Election results may take up to thirty days to finalize. Find out why below.
Results are not final at the end of election night due to the large number of ballots still to count. About 85% of all ballots are expected to be Vote by Mail ballots. In the 2018 elections and the March 2020 election under the Voter’s Choice Act model, 40-45% of all Vote by Mail ballots were received on Election Day and the three days after that. None of the Vote by Mail ballots received on Election Day will be included in election night reports. This means that the election night results may be significantly different from the final results.
The first results report will be released at 8:10 p.m. on election night. This report will include Vote by Mail ballots received in the mail and returned at Vote Centers and Drop Boxes prior to Election Day. See the election results page for exactly which ballots will be included in the results on election night.
Starting at 9:00 p.m., the results from Vote Centers will start to be reported. Results will be updated every half hour until all Vote Center ballots have been counted. Vote Center ballots are returned to the Registration & Elections Division for scanning. Vote Centers are spread across the county and may only close after every voter in line at 8 p.m. has cast their ballot. Due to this, ballots will continue to arrive and be counted until well past midnight. Vote by Mail ballots returned at Vote Centers are not included in this count.
When all Vote Center ballots have been counted, the Final Election Night Report will be posted.
During the days and weeks following Election Day, the remaining ballots are counted. These ballots include Vote by Mail ballots received on and after Election Day along with any conditional voter registration ballots and provisional ballots. Under California Elections Code, the Elections Office can count Vote by Mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than three days after Election Day. For the November 2020 Presidential Election, ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted if they are received no later than 17 days after Election Day.
The evening after Election Day, an updated report on the number of ballots received and remaining to count will be posted on smcacre.org. This number will include Vote by Mail ballots, conditional voter registration ballots, and provisional ballots.
On the Thursday after the election, updated results will be posted at 4:30 p.m. Results will continue to be update on days listed in the election release schedule. See the election results page for the schedule of updates to the results. Election results are not final until all eligible ballots are counted.
All Vote by Mail ballot envelope signatures must be verified, ballots extracted from their envelopes, and then scanned before the results can be reported. Conditional voter registration and provisional ballots must be reviewed before the voter’s eligibility can be confirmed and the ballot counted.
Vote by Mail ballots can be “challenged” for a number of reasons, such as the signature on the ballot envelope not matching the voter registration record, or because the voter didn’t sign the ballot envelope. Outreach is done for all voters where there is a signature issue. A voter whose ballot has been “challenged” due to a signature issue can verify their signature until 5 p.m. two days before the election is certified.
One Percent Manual Tally
The one percent manual tally is a legally required election audit that takes place after the polls have closed on Election Day to ensure the accuracy of the vote before the official results are certified. The procedure begins with the randomized selection of precincts from Vote Centers and batches of Vote by Mail ballots through a dice roll using three ten-sided dice. Ballots will then be tallied by hand to verify the reported results. For each contest not included in the one percent manual tally, an additional voting precinct or batch with that contest will be tallied.
Certification of the Election
The results are certified no later than 30 days following the election.