Santa Cruz County Elections

November 2, 2004
Presidential General Election

Canvass Procedures for Santa Cruz County

The official canvass of votes cast at an election may begin no later than the Thursday following the election. 15301.

The elections official shall prepare a certified statement of the results of the election and submit it to the governing body within 28 days of the election, or in the case of school district, community college district, county board of education, or special district elections conducted on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years, no later than the last Monday before the last Friday of that month. 15372

VOTE COUNT UPDATES BEFORE FINAL CERTIFICATION: The law does not require vote count updates prior to final certification of the votes cast. It is the County Clerk’s policy to not do updates as it takes time away from continuing the processing of ballots and completing the audit of the polls. If the County Clerk does determine an update is necessary, all interested parties will be notified and it the date and time of the update will be posted on 24 hours in advance.

ABSENTEE BALLOT NUMBERS PROVIDED BY DISTRICT: Absentee ballots may be dropped off at any polling place on Election Day. Therefore, in the days after the Election, the County Clerk/Elections Department will be able to provide the total number of absentees returned to Santa Cruz County polling places, but we cannot report how many were returned by district. We can also provide an estimate of the number of absentees left to be processed. Depending on the workload, there will be some amount of absentees that have come through the mail or voted at the County Clerk/Elections Department prior to election day that were not processed in time to be counted election night.

Once all of the absentee ballots are keyed into the computer system and flagged as returned, we will be able to provide a count of absentees left to be processed by ballot type.

Usually, this report is available 3 to 7 working days after the election.


ABSENTEE BALLOT PROCESSING: On Election Night all the absentee ballots that have been received, processed and ready to be counted are tallied. For an absentee ballot to be ready to be counted, the following has to occur:

  1. flag returned absentee ballots on computer system;

  2. compare signature of voter on absentee envelope to the signature on computer from the voter's registration affidavit, if there is a discrepancy, the ballot is separated for review by a supervisor;

  3. sort absentee ballots by consolidated voting precinct;

  4. open absentee identification envelopes by absentee precinct. Identification envelopes are placed signature side down and the voted ballot cards inside the secrecy envelope are removed. Envelopes returned with no voted ballot cards are so noted. Empty identification envelopes are removed from the table. The number of opened absentee identification envelopes are counted and the number of gray secrecy envelopes with voted ballots are counted. If numbers do not match, research is done until the numbers do match;

  5. voted ballot cards are then removed from the secrecy envelopes. Voted ballot cards are inspected for damage, tape, marks that would affect the accuracy of counting the ballot, and ballots marked with ball point ink. Ballot cards are corrected pursuant to Elections Code 15270 or duplicated if necessary by the canvassing board.

  6. absentee ballots issued on the day before or the day of the election are verified against the precinct rosters prior to processing to ensure against voting twice. Lists of absentee voters who are issued ballots prior to the day before the election are delivered to the precinct inspectors who mark the names in the Alpha Index as having already received a ballot.

  7. ballots are then prepared for tallying final election results.

It takes 2 to 3 weeks to process all absentee ballots.

VOTE/NO VOTE: Voter records are tagged identifying which voters voted at the polls on Election Day. This process must be done prior to Provisional Ballot processing.

After completion of this work and keying in all of the absentee ballots, a report is created identifying any voters who voted twice. The report is researched, keying errors corrected, and any unresolved duplicate voting incidents are referred to the District Attorney for investigation.

This process takes about 3 days.

PROVISIONAL BALLOT NUMBERS & PROCESSING: An estimated number of provisional ballots voted at each precinct is available the day after the election. The County Clerk/Elections Department does not provide a breakdown of the numbers of provisional ballots by district, but can provide the list of those turned in by precinct and a list of precincts in each district.

Provisional voters include:

  • registered voters who move within the same county but failed to re-register to vote, who vote at their new polling place or the County Clerk/Elections Department;

  • voters who are not listed on the Alpha Index at the polling place;

  • voters who have been issued an absentee ballot, show up at the polling place to vote, but fail to surrender their absentee ballot;

  • first time federal voters under the Help America Vote Act who do not have proof of identification;

  • any other voter whose eligibility to vote was questioned by the precinct officer.

Provisional ballots are investigated by the Canvass Board once all of the absentees have been keyed in as returned. Where there is a question of the voter's right to vote, the supervisor investigates. All valid provisional ballots are then prepared for the official count.

It takes 1 to 2 weeks to research all provisional ballots.

RECONCILIATION - PRECINCT BALLOTS: The Canvass Board reviews Ballot Statements for accuracy and compares numbers of ballots counted by the computer to the number recorded by the Precinct Board. The Canvass Board verifies the number of Absentee and Provisional ballots reported turned in by the Precinct Board with the number received by the Receiving Board on Election night. Differences are computed and discrepancies are investigated.

Ballot cards that were not tallied election night because they were damaged or rejected by the card reader are remade for the final ballot count. The Canvass Board also examines each roster for completion of all Certificates, Oaths and Declarations. Irregularities are noted and investigated. Payroll forms are forwarded to the Precinct Recruitment Officer who enters in the appropriate information on the computer database and forwards the payroll tape to the Auditor.

This procedure takes 7 to 10 days.

WRITE-IN VOTES: Votes for qualified write-in candidates are manually counted by precinct. A summary of the votes cast for qualified write-in candidates is printed in the certified statement of vote. A copy is available upon the final tally of the votes cast. Votes are not tallied for write-in candidates that did not file as a qualified write-in candidate.

This procedure takes 3 to 5 days depending on the number of write-in candidates.

1% MANUAL RECOUNT (15360) The procedure for randomly selecting precincts to be counted in the 1 percent manual recount consists of identifying three polling places and one mailed ballot precinct which obtain the most races with the least amount of overlap. All races are to be tallied for these precincts. In addition to the 1 percent recount, one precinct is counted for each race not covered in the 1 percent. The manual recount is then applied to only the race/s not previously counted. Results of the manual recount are compared to the election night tally results. Discrepancies are investigated and if necessary the race is manually re-tallied.

The 1 percent recount procedure takes approximately 2 to 4 days.

FINAL OFFICIAL COUNT: The Logic and Accuracy Test is run, reviewed and approved to ensure the card readers are operating correctly. The absentee, provisional and any remade ballot cards are then counted by the card readers. A final computer print-out summarizing the votes in all races is then made available. Any irregularities and/or discrepancies are investigated and reconciled.

A Statement of the Votes cast includes:

  • The total number of ballots cast;

  • The number of votes cast at each precinct for each candidate and for and against each measure;

  • The total number of votes cast for each candidate and for and against each measure;

  • The total number of votes cast in each city, Assembly district, Congressional district, Senatorial district, State Board of Equalization district, supervisorial district for each candidate for the offices of presidential elector and all statewide offices and on each statewide ballot proposition.

A certified copy of the Statement of Vote is available for purchase within 7 days of the final count and will be available online at


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