Vote Controversy in California

It’s been three weeks since the California primary, and the votes are still being counted. The slow count has fueled controversy among supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, some of whom are convinced that he actually won the state.

It seems unlikely that the outstanding votes will be enough to swing the election to Bernie, but he has picked up ground compared to the results that were announced on election day.

The final count on election night gave Clinton a 13 percentage-point lead over Sanders, 56 percent to 43 percent. But, as the late ballots and provisionals have been counted, the margin is now about 9 percentage points.
— San Francisco Chronicle

Bernie’s supporters hang onto hopes of a victory

Supporters of Bernie Sanders held an event in Los Angeles last Sunday that was billed as a “Still Sanders” rally. Some speakers at the rally held out hope that the final count of mail-in and provisional ballots would result in Sander’s being declared the winner. It seems highly unlikely that Bernie will gain enough votes to be able to claim victory, but he has narrowed Clinton’s lead. 

Yet for a small group of Sanders die-hards, California's ridiculously slow count of mail-in and provisional ballots is a source of hope and evidence of the media's failure.
— The Washington Post 

As the votes continue to be counted, three of the 58 counties that voted for Clinton have flipped to Sanders resulting in a net pickup of three delegates for Bernie. 


High number of mail-in ballots slow down the vote count

Much of the delay has been due to the slowness in counting mail-in ballots. The California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla reported that about 1.8 million mail-in ballots were received this year. California accepts mail-in ballots as long as they are postmarked no later than election day and received no later than three days after the election.

Also, there was an unusually high use of provisional ballots in this year’s election. Up to 500,000 Californians signed up to vote right before the May 23 deadline. This created a backlog in getting information to the counties to update voter rolls. If a person who is not on the voter rolls shows up to vote, they are issued a provisional ballot that is counted once their eligibility to vote is confirmed. 

State law requires county elections officials to report their final results to the Secretary of State by July 8, 2016. The Secretary of State then has until July 15, 2016, to certify the results of the election.
— California Secretary of State 

There has been slow but steady progress in counting the votes. On June 10, the Secretary of State’s office reported that there were some 2.4 million ballots to be counted out of a statewide total of 8.5 million. On June 16, the number of uncounted ballots had dropped to 1.4 million and by June 24, the number was down to 605,000 votes. 

Still, it seems that a state that is the world’s leader in technology ought to be able to find a more efficient way to count votes so that the voters don’t have to wait three weeks or longer to know the final outcome of an election.  


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