Mailing It In

Voting by mail delays election results

Are you frustrated that we must wait so long after an election for final vote results? We have only ourselves to blame for the situation. Too many people who vote by mail wait until the day of the election to deliver or mail their ballot. And that’s the problem.

California election officials want us to vote by mail instead of at the polling place, and mail voting has steadily increased over the decades. In 1962, only 2.63 percent of California voters voted by mail. Statewide, there were just 156,167 mail ballots to be counted, out of a total of 5.9 million votes cast.

That percentage has skyrocketed over the years. In 2008 during, the June presidential primary, 42 percent of California voters voted by mail, or 3.7 million out of 9.1 million votes cast. In the 2012 presidential primary, a whopping 65 percent of the votes cast were mail ballots.

This year, after California’s June 7 votes were posted, there were still around 3.5 million ballots to be processed. Sonoma County alone had about 43,000 ballots remaining to be counted. Mail ballots require minute attention; verifying those ballots is a painstaking and time-consuming process that must be followed carefully to ensure that each ballot is valid.

Unfortunately, a very large number of California’s voters wait until Election Day to deliver their mail ballot to a polling place, or mail it on Election Day, guaranteeing that their votes cannot be included in the election tally. Only after every signature is verified can those mail ballots be counted.

This year, mail ballots that were postmarked by June 7 and received at election offices by June 10 were accepted. Election officers have four weeks to process those ballots and produce the final tally. In the case of this election, that final date is July 8.

Those who complain about California’s yet-to-be counted ballots must acknowledge the problem caused by waiting until the last minute to cast a mail ballot. Next time, to ensure that your ballot is included in Election Day totals, get your mail ballot to the election office before the day of the election.

Alice Chan is a long-time Democratic Party activist and a co-chair of the Coalition for Grassroots Progress.

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