Cano’s update on the county’s counting ballots

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano released an update on the county’s counting process for the November General Election. She stated on Friday, Nov. 18 that we have now entered the “official canvas period.” 

Cano explains the “semifinal official canvas” of the vote happened when the polls closed on election day. That included tallying the early-returned vote-by-mail ballots and the ballots cast in each of the County’s precincts on election day. The numbers posted late on election night were the vote-by-mail ballots that came in during the days prior to the election and all ballots cast at polling places by voters who surrendered their vote-by-mail ballots and cast theirs the traditional way.

The processing and counting that has happened since election day have been the approximately 60,000 Vote-By-Mail ballots received the day before, the day of, and the days following election day. They have issued two updates in election numbers during this process.

After their last update on Wednesday, Nov. 16 the office had to stop processing and counting Vote-By-Mail ballots to complete the mandated 1 percent manual tally to check the accuracy of their machine vote tallying system. This involves conducting a hand count of the ballots cast in one (1) percent of the precincts, chosen at random by the elections official.

According to Cano, we are now in the “official canvas.” It is open to the public and will continue daily until completed. Though California Election code says that Saturday, Sundays and holidays are exceptions, her office has counted on holidays and weekends. The official canvass must be complete no later than Dec. 8.

The official canvass includes the following processes:

  • First Step — Ballot Sortation and Signature Verification
  • Second Step — Extraction
  • Third Step — Flattening and Inspection
  • Fourth Step — Remaking Ballots (Duplication)

Postmarked Vote by Mail Ballots: Under California law, ballots may be counted even if they arrive after Election Day, as long as they are received by mail no later than seven days after the election and are postmarked on or before Election Day. These ballots will be processed just like the other Vote By Mail ballots.

One Percent Manual Tally

  • “One percent manual tally” is the public process of manually tallying votes in 1 percent of the precincts, selected at random by the elections official, and in one precinct for each race not included in the randomly selected precincts. This procedure is conducted publicly during the official canvass to verify the accuracy of the automated count.
  • The County of San Luis Obispo performs a two-part public manual tally, which includes both of the following:
    • A public manual tally of the ballots canvassed in the semifinal official canvass, not including vote by mail or provisional ballots, cast in 1 percent of the precincts chosen at random by the elections official.
    • A public manual tally of not less than 1 percent of the vote by mail ballots canvassed in the semifinal official canvass. Batches of vote by mail ballots shall be chosen at random by the elections official.
  • In addition to the 1 percent manual tally of the Vote By Mail ballots, the elections official shall, for each race not included in the initial 1 percent manual tally of vote by mail ballots, count one additional batch of vote by mail ballots. The manual tally shall apply only to the race not previously counted.

Conditional Voter Registration and Provisional Ballots: These are the last ballots counted because they must be researched and verified; it may take a few weeks, but every valid vote will be counted. Voters that did not register by the close of registration have the option to register and vote a Conditional Voter Registration Provisional Ballot. As these voters registered after the Rosters are printed, they are processed and counted at the end of the canvass period. 

Provisional ballots are processed by checking the voter registration file to verify the voter’s eligibility to cast the ballot, confirming that the signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the voter’s signature on their registration record, confirming the voter cast the ballot in the correct precinct, and confirming the voter has not returned a ballot by any other means in SLO County and any other County in the State of California. Once verified and approved for opening, the ballot is added to the official count.

With all of these processes left to do, the County Clerk Recorder’s office will certify the election, meaning finalize counting all the ballots, by the Dec. 8 deadline.

Number of SLO County Registered Voters: 182,291

  • Vote By Mail Ballots Counted Prior to Election Day: 51,200
  • Voters that voted at the polls on Election Day: 6,896
  • Voters that voted provisionally: approx. 927
  • Voters that returned their Vote-By-Mail ballot by mail or at an official ballot drop box, polling place or the election office the day before and on Election Day: approx. 59,812
  • Total of Vote by Mail ballots counted since election day: 33,600
  • Total of Vote by Mail ballots unprocessed: approx. 27,940

All updates are posted on their website