701 OCEAN ST., ROOM 210
831-454-2060 / FAX: 831-454-2445

TO: ALL INTERESTED PARTIES - March 2, 2004 Presidential Primary Election

FROM: Richard W. Bedal, County Clerk

DATE: March 2, 2004



This memo is provided as a courtesy to explain the logistics of election night ballot counting, and follow-up ballot tabulation, which occurs in the days/weeks following the election. The law allows 28 days after the election to complete the ballot tally and the official audit of the election, known as the Canvass. When the Canvass is completed, the official results are certified.

There are four categories of ballots that cannot be processed and counted on Election Night:


Many absentee voters wait until the last minute to make their voting choices and then drop off their absentee ballots at a polling place on Election Day or mail it in time for us to receive it on Election Day. We receive these ballots very late on election night.

All absentee ballots must be pre-processed before they are counted - this includes:



Provisional ballots are voted at the polls or one of our two Central locations (Santa Cruz County Elections Department or Watsonville City Clerk’s Office) when a voter’s registration is in question, or when our records indicate the voter was already sent an absentee ballot. Provisional ballots are sealed in special pink envelopes at the polling sites and must be individually researched and verified at the Elections Department before ballots are counted or not counted in accordance with election laws.



All ballots containing write-in votes must be set aside for manual review of each individual ballot. When a voter chooses to vote for a write-in candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, that ballot cannot be counted on election night. Each ballot containing a write-in vote must be individually reviewed to determine whether or not the write-in vote is for a qualified write-in candidate. Votes for qualified write-in candidates who filed candidacy papers prior to the election will be counted and reported in the final Statement of Votes Cast.


Often times voters spoil their ballots in some way that they cannot be counted by the computer. If they tear their ballot, it must be remade. If their voting mark invades another voting position or timing marks on the ballot card, the individual card must be remade.

Providing a number of remakes is misleading since these are by individual cards. In our ballot system, voters received either a 4 or 5 card ballot series. If they tore their "A" card containing the statewide contests, it would be set aside to be remade; however, their other ballot cards would be counted. Therefore, if there are 100 cards that need to be remade, there is no correlation to the number of outstanding "ballots" left to be counted.



Supplemental ballot counting of absentee, provisional, write-in and remade ballots will occur in the days/weeks following the election. As of today, Friday, November 8, we know there are approximately 10,500 absentees to count during our mid-canvass update – the time and date of which will be announced late next week.

In addition, there are approximately 1500 provisional ballots, some additional absentee ballots that require additional research as well as the ballots that need to be remade. These ballots are not segregated by district prior to counting. Therefore, the number of outstanding ballots for any specific electoral district will be unknown until the computer tallies these ballots.

Based on past trends, approximately 2/3 of the provisional ballots are normally determined to have been cast by eligible voters and are counted. Some absentee ballots are challenged due to lack of a signature of the voter on the envelope, a different address than where the voter is registered, a signature that does not compare with the one on that voter’s affidavit of registration, or they were received after 8 p.m., November 5, 2002.

California law permits 28 days to complete the final, official canvass and certify the results of the election. This provision of the law recognizes the complexity of completing the ballot count and conducting a thorough audit of the election results to ensure accuracy. Part of the canvass process is a legally required manual recount of the votes cast for all candidates and measures on the ballots in 1% of the 280 voting precincts. This manual process verifies the accuracy of the computer count.

Supplemental ballot counting will take place once before final certification. We will send out a news release 24 hours before the scheduled update as well as call, FAX, or e-mail interested parties. However, due to the extra research required to validate provisional ballots, the extra time to manually count write-ins and the extra step to remake ballots, these ballots are usually the last to be tallied prior to the completion of the official canvass (which must be completed by March 30, 2004).

Candidates and members of the general public are invited to observe any of our processes and procedures. The canvass was commenced on March 3.

We realize it is difficult for candidates/campaigns involved in close races to wait days and sometimes weeks to know whether or not they won or lost the election. However, we hope that the reasons for the delays in the final ballot tally have been explained fully in this memo. If you have any additional questions, please call me at 831-454-2060 or the Elections Manager Gail Pellerin at 831-454-2419, e-mail

For more information, please call the Santa Cruz County Elections Department at 831-454-2060, visit our office at 701 Ocean St., Room 210 in Santa Cruz, or check out our website at