The election canvass process is an internal audit and is required by state law to ensure the accuracy of election results. California election law allows 28 days to conduct the official canvass of final election results. The canvass period involves a number of different tasks that ensure processing all voted ballots, accounting for all election supplies and equipment utilized during the election, and provide for an audit and reconciliation of election returns.
When the canvass is completed, the Secretary of State certifies all the results. All aspects of the canvass are open for public observation. During the canvass, Vote by Mail and Provisional ballots not counted on election night are researched to validate eligibility. Once validated, these additional Vote By Mail and Provisional ballots will be counted. The canvass concludes with the certification and issuance of official election results.
Listed below are the major components of the official canvass. These components must be performed in a particular order. The day after the election, Vote By Mail ballots currently in-house and those turned in at the polls are processed and tallied (this process may take up to 10 days). As soon as the Vote By Mail ballots are processed, the Vote/No Vote procedure, which takes about seven days to complete, is started. Once the Vote/No Vote component is completed, the Provisional ballots are processed. This process takes approximately seven days. Throughout the canvass, the Audits are conducted. The damaged and remade ballots are reviewed and completed, and the Vote By Mail and Poll write-in ballots are reviewed and tallied.
Roster Reconciliation: Following the close of the polls election night, precinct officers are responsible for completing the Official Ballot Statement, which is located on the front cover of each precinct’s Roster of Voters. As part of the official canvass, the number of signatures indicated by the inspector on the roster is compared to the number of ballots tabulated by the computer tally system.
1 Percent Manual Vote Tally: All voted ballots from a randomly selected 1 percent of the 630 precincts are manually tallied and balanced against the computer counts to verify the accuracy of the election tally system. This process is required by law.
Ballots Added During Official Canvass
- The following ballots are withheld from the tally system on election night. Once eligibility is determined, these ballots are added to the election results. Withheld ballot types include:
- Vote By Mail Ballots returned on election day to our office or dropped off at polling locations. These ballots do not arrive in sufficient time to be individually signature-verified, opened and prepared for tabulation on election night.
- Vote By Mail Ballots received in the mail a few days before the day of the election.
- Damaged Ballots which are unable to be processed through the election tally system. These must be manually duplicated prior to tabulation. Damaged ballots occur when ballots arrive torn or damaged and cannot be processed through the vote tabulation equipment.
- Write-In Ballots must be individually reviewed to determine if the write-in vote is for a qualified/unqualified write-in candidate. Both Vote By Mail ballots and ballots voted at the polls must be manually reviewed for valid Write-In ballot tabulation.
- Provisional Ballots issued at the 367 voting locations on Election Day. These ballots must be individually researched to determine eligibility. Provisional ballots are issued at polling places to voters whose names are not on the voter file or who appeared at a polling place other than the one noted on their voter registration record.
- Remade ballots occur when voters cast ballots outside their assigned voting precinct. If a contest or contests on a provisional ballot do not represent those contests offered on the voter’s assigned precinct ballot, the ballot is remade to include only those votes cast that correspond with those offered in the assigned precinct.
Each of the 367 polling places’ Roster of Voters must be reviewed for completeness and accuracy and then each person who voted is given credit for voting. This process involves bar code scanning every Roster of Voter to capture each voting record for the approximately 427,000 registered voters.