Nine in 10 provisional ballots cast in California during last November’s election were accepted, dispelling the notion that those ballots, given to voters with eligibility questions, don’t count, according to state election officials.
Also, about 58,000 Californians – just under 11,000 of them from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties – took advantage of the state’s first-ever offer of late voter registration in the Nov. 6 general election, Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office reported.
Roughly 12.7 million of the state’s 19.6 million registered voters at the time – the number is now more than 20 million – voted in November. The total was the highest ever for a gubernatorial general election, and the turnout rate of 64.5% was the highest since 1982.
Changes to state law paved the way for conditional voter registration, which started 14 days before the general election and continued on Election Day, Nov. 6. While creating more work for elections officials, conditional registration is seen as a way to encourage voter participation in a deep blue state that strives to remove barriers to voting.
The most same-day registrations took place in the five counties – none in Southern California – that by 2018 had implemented the Voter’s Choice Act, which replaces traditional neighborhood polling places with a system that mails ballots to every voter and opens a smaller number of vote centers 10 days before an election.
Orange County is moving to a vote-center model for future elections.
Provisional ballots are meant to ensure that everyone who goes to a polling place can cast a ballot, even if they’ve gone to the wrong place. Every provisional ballot is checked by election officials to make sure it was cast by an eligible voter. Ballots from ineligible voters are not counted.
Statewide, almost 971,000 provisional ballots were cast in November, and almost 890,000 – 91.7% – were counted.
The high number of accepted provisional ballots “dispels the myth that provisional ballots are either thrown out (or) largely rejected by county elections officials,” Padilla said in a news release.
In Los Angeles County, 94.5% of provisional ballots were counted, Padilla’s office reported. The percentage was 89.5% in Orange County, 81.8% in Riverside County and 79.7 percent in San Bernardino County, according to the secretary of state.
Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said he isn’t concerned that his county’s provisional ballot acceptance rate was slightly lower than the state average.
“Those rates are actually higher than they were in the past. And part of the reason, I believe, is … so many last-minute registrations that may not have been active by Election Day … caught up with the (provisional ballots) and thus became valid,” he said.
“In addition, more and more voters have been looking for convenience and simply pull into a location when they see a ‘Vote’ sign, which generally is not their home precinct. They’re an active voter but just at the wrong location, which means their provisional would be valid.”
Many of the invalid provisional ballots came from out-of-county voters who work in Orange County, Kelley added.
The next statewide election in California is the presidential primary on March 3, 2020.
BY THE NUMBERS
Here’s a look at provisional ballot and conditional voter registration data in Southern California counties for the Nov. 6, 2018 general election. Conditional voter registration started 14 days before Election Day and continued through Nov. 6.
Los Angeles County: 94.5% of provisional ballots accepted (out of 389,229 cast); 4,406 voters registered conditionally.
Orange County: 89.5% of provisional ballots accepted (out of 112,259 cast); 3,036 voters registered conditionally.
Riverside County: 81.8% of provisional ballots accepted (out of 51,910 cast); 1,247 voters registered conditionally.
San Bernardino County: 79.7% of provisional ballots accepted (out of 42,980 cast); 2,468 registered conditionally.
Source: California Secretary of State.
Source: Orange County Register