SACRAMENTO (AP) — More than 4 million votes were counted Wednesday in California’s primary election, representing a low turnout of roughly 22 percent of registered voters.
But at least 1 million votes likely haven’t been counted, said Paul Mitchell, vice president of the nonpartisan Political Data Inc., which collects voter data. It could take weeks before the final numbers are in.
Counties will continue to receive ballots through Friday under a recent law that allows ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted if they are received within three days. It will take weeks to count them all.
Several new policies make it difficult to predict final turnout numbers. Perhaps most notably, five California counties tried a new model where ballots were mailed to all registered voters.
The new model’s effect on turnout is still unknown, said Mindy Romero, director of the UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project.
In Sacramento County, the largest county implementing the new model, the rollout was “fantastic” said Alice Jarboe, a Sacramento election official.
She said more voters dropped off their mail ballots in person than the county expected, causing election officials to rush to deliver more secure containers to voting centers.
It takes longer to process a mail ballots than ballots cast in person because officials must verify a voter’s signature and eligibility and remove the ballot from the envelope before it can be tabulated.
This is also the first election where voters who missed the deadline to register could still register conditionally through Election Day and cast a provisional ballot, which also take longer to count.
Candidates anticipated to perform well among Latino voters, notably gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de Leon, performed below expectations in early returns. Villaraigosa didn’t qualify for the general election in November. De Leon did, but he finished more than 30 percentage points behind his opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, based on early votes.
Early voters tend to skew older, conservative and white, so turnout for younger, liberal and nonwhite voters could increase as ballots continue to be counted
Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California but typically are underrepresented at the polls.
Romero said it’s too early to tell if Latino turnout will increase as votes continue to be tabulated. She said it’s possible there will be higher Latino turnout than the last midterm primary election in 2014, which had record low turnout.
Turnout on Election Day seemed generally light in many counties throughout the state, with some experiencing significant problems. In Los Angeles County, officials say the names of more than 118,000 voters were omitted from voter lists because of a printing error, although residents were still able to cast provisional ballots. Amador County ran out of ballots during Election Day and voters had to wait until new ones were delivered.