With more Californians participating in elections through vote by mail, the results for several high-profile races in the Los Angeles area might not be called until days or weeks after Election Day, according to a report.
That includes the tightening race between Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, a longtime elected official in southeast LA, and billionaire developer Rick Caruso competing to become mayor of the second-largest city in the nation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "Final results may take days or weeks in certain high-profile races, including a handful of nail-biter congressional contests around the state and a number of competitive Democrat-on-Democrat races in Los Angeles city and county, such as the hotly contested L.A. mayor’s race."
"We no longer have election night. We have election season," said Mindy Romero, a political sociologist and director of the USC Center for Inclusive Democracy, told the Times.
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On the night of the primary, the Times notes how Caruso supporters celebrated a multi-point lead ahead of Bass. But Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department vehicles continued to arrive at a county vote-tabulating facility in Downey carrying bags of ballots. Ultimately, Bass was declared the victor by seven points, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, the primary night party ended early for Eunisses Hernandez when incumbent Councilmember Gil Cedillo was leading by more than 10 percentage points. But once all votes were counted, Hernandez was declared the winner against Cedillo, reversing her Election Night positioning.
Given Democrats’ overwhelming registration advantage in California, most party-line races are non-competitive, making results easy to forecast before all ballots are counted.
The Times says California Gov. Gavin Newsom, therefore, already is considered the presumptive winner, as is Sen. Alex Padilla’s victory. He appears twice on the ballot to allow him to finish his truncated term – since Newsom appointed him to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ vacated seat – as well start a new one.
According to the Times, most state races will see clear winners and losers Tuesday night – but not all.
"If your race is within 10 points at the end of election night, it’s probably premature to call it a win," political consultant Michael Trujillo told the Times. "If you’re up 20 [points], you’re probably safe."
A 2021 law made universal vote by mail permanent in California since the onset of the pandemic. The total number of ballots also won’t be clear until next week because, in California, ballots postmarked by election day are accepted for up to seven days.
According to an analysis by Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, more than 90% of ballots cast statewide were vote-by-mail ballots and nearly 48 hours after polls closed, fewer than half of all ballots had been counted in the June 2022 election.
That contrasts with the November 2004 election when fewer than a third of statewide ballots were cast by mail, and more than 80% had been counted by 5 p.m. two days after the election, Alexander told the Times.
Final votes in Los Angeles County are scheduled to be certified on Dec. 5.