My day began with a welcome email from Walter Moore. The election isn't over, well not completely, and as Walter's missive reminded me, 46,000 provisional ballots remain to be counted.
The City Clerk's Election division is also willing to allow members of the public to observe and so, at Walter's suggestion, I went back to where it all started, 555 Ramirez Street in Downtown Los Angeles.
I was met by Lucy, one of the many helpful workers at the Clerk's Office. My first question was "What is a provisional ballot?" Lucy was kind enough to explain (if only the DMV were so helpful) that these are basically
1) postal (absentee) ballots that were handed in at polling stations,
2) ballots that were cast by persons whose name could not be found at the polling station, or
3) ballots cast by persons who should have voted by mail, but turned up polling stations and claimed not to have cast a postal ballot, and
4) ballots that are damaged or unclear.
There are probably more reasons why a ballot might be considered "provisional" but you get the idea.
The first step, Lucy explained, is to check that the signature on the ballot matches a signature of a registered voter. Below is where that process takes place.
And they really check! Here you can see one of the election workers actually looking up a ballot and comparing the signature in their database to the signature on the ballot.
Once the signature match test is passed, the ballots go to this big room where further examination is carried out:
There's even a section where damaged ballots are repaired so that they can be counted:
Then the hard task of trying to discover the voters' intent begins for those postal ballots where, for example, the dot's in the wrong place - perhaps between two candidates, but more over one than the other. Or, a dot for one candidate has been 'x'ed out and another dot placed for another candidate.
It's a painstaking process,
requiring a skilled eye to make determination.
Postal ballots that were mailed after the deadline, but which arrived postmarked before the day of the election are considered "provisional" and will be counted too, as long as everyone is satisfied that the postal voter has not also cast a ballot at a polling station.
Finally, when all the provisional ballots that have passed all the tests are ready to be counted, they will be taken to this sealed room where a number of counting machines will tally-up the final vote.
I left the City Clerk's Election Division full of praise and admiration for the hard work that all the workers put in to ensure fairness in the count. I am satisfied that when the final count is known, it will be a fair and accurate count. Now I also know why it is that we will not know the final count until March 24, as you can see it is fair from a simple process.
Buy the way, I asked if the May 19 run-off election will be counted here and it seems that the County of Los Angeles will actually count those votes as the run-off coincides with a statewide special election.
So there you have it, democracy in action.