ELECTION 2022: Take an Inside Look at How Votes Are Counted

Who won?

If the race is close, it could be days – or weeks – before the winner is known.

Since as many as 50% of votes were expected to be cast by mail or dropped in boxes before today, the counting process will continue for days.

By Sunday, Nov. 6, Santa Clara County elections officials had recorded 259,709 votes cast via mailed-in ballots, votes at Vote Centers, and ballots dropped in drop boxes, 25.5% of the county’s 1,020,491 registered voters.

Vote Centers close at 8pm tonightt, but it can take a few hours for all vote centers to report results, and weeks before the final totals are known. Ever wondered why? Here's a quick look at what happens to your ballot after you cast it.

Election Night

The first results are posted shortly after 8pm. These are the Vote by Mail ballots that were returned early.

  • After that, we have to wait for the first of the Vote Centers across the county to complete their paperwork, pack up their supplies, and return the ballots - this can take more than an hour
  • As vote centers report in, their results are tabulated and compiled into countywide results
  • The posted results are updated periodically throughout the night - the results web page will show how many vote centers have reported and the time of the last update
  • When all vote centers have reported, the Election Night counting is done; however, there are still more ballots to count and a lot more work to do before the results become official (see below)

Post-Election Canvass

California Elections Code requires the Registrar of Voters to perform a post-election canvass before certifying the final results. The canvass period usually lasts for 30 days after a statewide primary or general elections. During this time, ROV counts all remaining valid ballots and performs a series of mandated audits to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the election.

Election Results will be updated daily during the Canvass period.

Ballots counted after Election Day

  • "Last Minute" Vote by Mail Ballots: Vote by Mail ballots that arrive on Election Day are processed and counted starting the next day; these take longer to count than a precinct ballot because they have to be signature-verified; most of these are counted by the Friday after the election
  • Postmarked Vote by Mail Ballots: Under California law, ballots may be counted even if they arrive after Election Day, as long as they are received by mail no later than ​7 days after the election and are postmarked on or before Election Day
  • Provisional Ballots: these are the usually the last ballots counted because they have to be researched & verified; it may take a few weeks, but every valid vote will be counted
  • Damaged/Unreadable Ballots: some ballots are torn, damaged, or marked in such a way that the tallying machines can't read them and require additional processing
  • Write-In Votes: when the voter writes in the name of a candidate, that vote must be tallied manually


  • Review of all paperwork completed at the precincts to make sure all ballots are accounted for
  • Manual recount of ballots from a random 1% sample of precincts to ensure that vote tabulation equipment is working accurately



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