Many Santa Cruzans today are asking “why don’t we have results yet?” The short answer is we haven’t counted all the ballots. The why, is a longer answer.
It takes a long time to count all the ballots. With the increased prevalence of vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots, it’s not as simple as tallying the votes in each precinct anymore. Each ballot goes through a multi-step process to verify the validity of the ballot and then what was on it.
Coupled with the fact that a lot of people turn in or mail their VBM ballots just before or on election day, it's a tall order for the under-resourced County Clerk’s Office to turn around results in a timely manner. It often takes several days (and sometimes a week or more) to count all of these ballots. That, and it often takes a few days for mailed-in ballots to finally arrive at the Clerk's office.
The county website currently states that there are approximately 59,600 vote by mail ballots, 1,175 Same Day Registration ballots, 90 Provisional ballots, and an Unknown number of vote by mail ballots that have 11/8 (or earlier) postmarks and are received by 11/15. This puts the total current estimated unprocessed ballots at roughly 60,500 unprocessed ballots, compared to the current tally of 37,878 ballots that have been processed and counted.
The number of total ballots is likely to increase since not all of them have been received by the County Elections office just yet and the 2018 midterms saw roughly 121,700 total ballots cast with a turnout of 76.31%. If we saw a similar turnout this year, there could be as many as 90,000 unprocessed ballots -- but for the sake of some speculative comparisons, we're going to assume that max turnout could reach 75% (87,249 potential unprocessed ballots).
Current reported county totals: 30.4% Counted VBM, 8.0% In Person, 61.6% Unprocessed, Based on Currently Reported Numbers from Santa Cruz County Elections Department
Already gaining ground as votes are tallied, we’re not ready to call this measure. Early votes tend to be a bit more conservative, and the trend as votes were reported on election day moved in Measure N’s favor. With 60-75% of ballots left to be processed and heavily skewed demographics for early VBM ballots, there’s just too much up in the air to really call this one.
Empty Home Tax proponents would need at least 57.37% of the remaining vote to win; this number drops to 55.13% if voter turnout is 75%.
3,138 Yes Votes, 5084 No Votes, 195 Undervotes, 13,221 Est. Unprocessed Ballots, Based on Currently Reported Numbers from Santa Cruz County Elections Department
Much closer than Measure N, this measure is an obvious toss up at this point and nothing to be inferred from demographic leanings, we really just need more votes to be counted. With only 1,156 votes separating yes and no, several thousand votes could make all the difference.
Measure O proponents would need at least 54.78% of the remaining vote to win; this number drops to 53.32% if voter turnout is 75%.
3430 Yes, 4691 No, 296 Undervotes, 13,221 Est. Unprocessed, Based on Currently Reported Numbers from Santa Cruz County Elections Department
Also, with only a handful of votes separating these two, it could go either way. Justin Cummings would need at least 51.65% of the remaining vote to defeat Shebreh; this number drops to 51.15% if turnout is 75%.
3,203 Cummings, 3,580 Kalentari-Johnson, 522 Undervotes, 11,467 Unprocessed, Based on Currently Reported Numbers from Santa Cruz County Elections Department
With so many tight races and so many unprocessed ballots, we really don’t know much about how this election went in Santa Cruz County yet -- we still don't even know the total number of ballots cast. Keep refreshing that county website though, as we're expected to get updated results tomorrow, Friday Nov 11th, at the end of the day. We should also get updated totals on unprocessed ballots -- but with under-resourced local elections offices across the state, even this is uncertain.
We can be sure of one thing–it’s pretty unlikely that Santa Cruz County is going to vote against the right to an abortion in California with a 80-20 split in favor of the proposition. Such a strong trend is hard to reverse.