San Rafael, CA – More than 100,000 ballots from the November 3 General Election have been tallied by the Marin County Elections Department, with approximately 52,000 yet to be counted. Those remaining are a mix of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, most of which were turned in by hand, received in the mail, or received at drop boxes just days before the election.
Marin County Registrar Lynda Roberts, shown being interviewed on Election Day, said ballot drop boxes were extremely popular with voters.
The first results were posted online
at 8:10 p.m. November 3, and the precinct count ended at about 10:31 p.m. with 101,111 votes cast. With an estimated 52,000 ballots still to count, Marin’s turnout may approach 90% of the county’s 175,220 registered voters once all ballots are tallied.
Elections staff has until December 3 to finish the task and certify the election. Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received by November 20 will be processed and counted.
Until all ballots are counted, the Elections Department will post updates to the online results every Wednesday and Friday by 5 p.m., starting Friday, November 6, until the election count is officially completed. A final voter turnout percentage will be released at that point, which is expected to grow beyond the estimated 153,111 in hand because of the additional ballots that may be received by November 20.
The final Marin voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 89% with 143,041 ballots cast; it was 87% in 2012 with 135,438 ballots cast and 91% in 2008 with 141,321 ballots cast.
“Our No. 1 priority is accuracy,” County Registrar Lynda Roberts said. “We understand the urgency involved and what’s at stake, so our staff is processing the ballots as fast as possible without cutting any corners. Every eligible vote will be counted.”
The COVID-19 pandemic since March presented a number of challenges to elections offices throughout the state this year, including law changes intended to ensure every eligible voter had options to vote safely. Instead of the typical 90-plus polling places in Marin County, there were 29 consolidated polling places open three days before Election Day for eight hours and on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. as outlined in Senate Bill 423.
In addition, every eligible voter was mailed a ballot in early October that they could return by mail or drop off at one of 14 drop boxes starting 28 days before the election. Roberts said 77,000 ballots were deposited in the drop boxes, which were located at the Marin County Civic Center and several polling places.
“The drop boxes were really popular,” Roberts said. “The drive-through box at the Civic Center was the most heavily used.”
Many more ballots were returned earlier than in years past. A little more than 11,000 voters voted at the polls during the early voting period and on Election Day. Most ballots were cast by mail and earlier than in previous years, allowing Elections staff to process nearly 90,000 ballots in the days and weeks ahead of election night.
Roberts said 50 trained full-time and part-time staff members are working overtime and into this weekend, just as they’ve done the past few weekends, to process and count the votes. The initial process of checking mailed ballots includes entering the sealed ballots into a computer system and verifying that signatures on the envelopes match the signature on the voter registration card.
“Verification is the most time-intensive step in processing vote-by-mail ballots and is required by law,” Roberts said. “We have to send a letter to voters whose mailed ballot envelope has a missing or mismatched signature, giving them time to fix the problem. Overall, our new voting system is very efficient, and we are able to count ballots much faster once they’ve been verified.”
Roberts has started the official canvass, which will continue the process of preparing and tallying all ballots received in the election, including vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots not included in the election night count. The canvass also includes the process of reconciling ballots and performing the manual tally of 1% of all the precincts and batches of vote-by-mail ballots.
The canvassing process is conducted weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, call the Elections Department at 415-473-6456.
Follow the Elections Department on Facebook.