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Tabulating the Results: What Time Will A Winner Be Declared

Vote tabulation tonight may take longer than usual due to COVID regulations, high in-person voter turnout

By Evan Symon, September 14, 2021 2:46 pm

In the last several major elections in California, the times when a major winner was declared in the race, or when enough votes were tabulated for a projection, have varied wildly. With early voting and by-mail ballots now becoming more and more of a force over the more traditional in-person and late counted absentee ballot ways to vote, the Globe takes a look into when exactly we’ll know tonight if the recall succeeded, and if it did, who is replacing Newsom.

The last Gubernatorial race in 2018, which pitted then Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom against businessman John Cox, was also the last major election before COVID-19 when laws were changed to grant by-mail ballots to all registered voters and a greater focus was given to other, not in-person methods.

Newsom handedly won in 2018 with 7.7 million votes compared to Cox’s 4.7 million. The 62%-38% split was the most lopsided Gubernatorial election in California history since 1950 when Earl Warren won. Results were also quickly tabulated within a matter of hours. While it still took several days to get all the votes in due to a lag in mail-in ballots, a plurality was reached within a few hours of the polls closing at 8 PM that night. Cox conceded once the lead became insurmountable sometime between 10 PM and 11 PM, with Newsom delivering his victory speech before midnight.

Two years later, the 2020 presidential election was met with COVID complications. Compounded by a record number of voters, ballots in California took a long time to be counted. While a large percentage was given early on due to early tabulations of mail-in and early votes, the flood of voters quickly made the state hit a brick wall, with results only trickling in.

All the networks had called California for Joe Biden that night anyway, but the U.S. awoke on Wednesday to find that no electoral victory had been given. Likewise, in California, only 55% of the 17.8 million cast ballots had been counted. Midday Wednesday it shot up to 67% before tapering off to only a few percentage points a day. That Friday it reached 72%, with votes a week later being at the 90% counted mark. 100% was not reached until December.

With 2018 being more traditional and 2020 being marked by new challenges inn times of a crisis, the highest percentage-wise turnout of voters since 1952, and voters having another week to filter in ballots due to COVID-19 concerns, it makes it difficult when to say we’ll really know for sure when a plurality will be reached. Election experts say that it will be some sort of combination of the two previous elections, with Californians likely knowing by late tonight or tomorrow.

The 2021 Recall election

“It won’t be as bad as last year as COVID restrictions have gone down and not as many people are voting,” explained Ricardo, a polling place supervisor in Southern California to the Globe on Tuesday. “And by mail ballots need to be postmarked by today, not that straggling delay we had last year during the Biden-Trump election.

“But there are many factors that may lead to this not being known sooner. So, the recall being defeated is currently ahead in polls by a wide margin, but there are some indications that it may be closer than what’s being reported. Plus, Republican voters are expected to come out in a greater percentage than Democrats and independents. So if it’s close, it will take longer to declare a winner.

“COVID is still playing a part too, so precinct reporting can still be somewhat delayed. We’ve seen a large number of mail-in votes come in so far, but again, we’re going to see a big push in in-person voters that skew older and more conservative today. And remember, Biden had a huge 43 point lead in 2020 based on preliminary early voting. In-person voting on election day narrowed it to 30 points. Still a landslide, but the recall vote is much closer, so we’ll see there.

“Should Newsom be recalled, then we’ll depend on the second ballot question, which (talk show host Larry) Elder is currently winning according to polls. With so many candidates, it could take awhile too. But Elder’s commanding lead could also make it an easy projection.

“We’re hoping that Californians know who the Governor will be before midnight, but don’t be surprised if it takes a bit longer.”

Voting in California is open until 8 P.M. tonight. California Globe will have poll updates throughout the night.

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