At least California vote-counters are having a good year. 

Post It logo

With nearly 17.5 million votes already tallied, county election officials have just about wrapped up counting the ballots from November’s presidential election. 

A little over two weeks out, that puts California way ahead of the norm from recent elections. 

Assuming the estimates of ballots left to count are accurate, the state has processed 98% of the total turnout. For perspective, after the 2016 and 2018 elections, it took the state 27 days to get to this point. 

If two weeks seems like a long time to count to 17.5 million, you haven’t been paying attention to California elections.

State election officials here have long prided themselves on making it easy to vote — eligible voters here can register online and on the day of the election, they can easily vote by mail, they can send in ballots at the very last minute even if the postal service won’t actually deliver them until days later, and they can amend messy or missing signatures on their ballot envelope.

All of those allowances make counting votes a much longer and arduous process. And this year, now that the pandemic has pushed lawmakers across the country to adopt California-like voting rules, plenty of other states are now enjoying California-like delays too.

But some new rules in California have actually sped up the process in 2020. 

First, every active registered voter in the state received a ballot in the mail this year. That, coupled with regular pleas from public officials to vote early, led to an unprecedented early vote in California this year. 

Another law passed this year gave county election officials the ability to start pre-processing ballots as early as October 5. 

The wave of early votes coupled with the pre-processing allowance meant that by election night, nearly 75% of the ballots had already been counted. That’s compared to about 65% in 2016 and 2018.

And since election day, counties have processed more than 300,000 ballots per day. That’s twice as fast as the prior two elections. 

Via the Post It, CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher shares frequent updates from the (socially distanced) 2020 campaign trail.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...