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Civics & Democracy

Reader Question: How Many Ballots Are Left To Be Counted?

A close up of dozens of gray and white ballot return envelopes in a mail tray.
Mail-in ballots in their envelopes await processing at the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorders' mail-in ballot center.
(Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images)
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After polls closed on Nov. 8, a reader from South Pasadena wrote in to our Voter Game Plan team and asked:

Why do you not report the percentage of votes counted?

The answer: We don’t report the percentage of votes counted because we don’t know how many votes have been cast in total yet — neither do local registrars' offices.

In California, all registered voters — about 22 million as of late October — were issued a vote-by-mail ballot. Voting by mail has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly since the pandemic.

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Still, some voters prefer to vote in person. The important thing to keep in mind is that all vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day — Nov. 8 — have one week to arrive. As a result, the outstanding ballot number is currently unknown, as some are still in transit.

What We Know About The Vote Count So Far

As of Thursday night, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s office had counted and processed 1,452,192 ballots. This represents about 26% of the county's 5,627,796 registered voters. About 68% of these ballots came in by mail.

In Orange County, as of late Wednesday, 670,185 ballots had been counted and processed. That’s about 37% of its 1,817,149 registered voters. About 76% of the received ballots were mailed in.

The L.A. County Registrar will provide periodic updates, the first was Thursday at about 4:30 p.m. Orange County officials will provide updates every weekday at 5 p.m. until official results are posted. You can read more about voter turnout in this election here.

As we wait for election results, it’s also important to note that election officials must physically check vote-by-mail ballots and verify signatures, and this takes time.

If you want to watch democracy in action, you can livestream the vote-by-mail operation. You can also observe the counting process in person at the Downey Tally Operation Center, at 9150 East Imperial Highway, Downey, California 90242.

Have A Question Of Your Own?

Throughout the midterm elections, our Voter Game Plan team has personally answered more than 100 audience questions from readers like you. Confused about something? We’re here to help. Submit your questions below. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

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Updated November 10, 2022 at 6:16 PM PST
This story has been updated to clarify the ballot count process in L.A. and Orange counties.
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