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On the West Coast, Election Doesn't End on Election NIght

The election often doesn't end on election night on the West Coast, where a majority of voters cast their ballots by mail or drop them off.

Posted: Nov 5, 2018 3:08 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The election often doesn't end on election night on the West Coast, where a majority of voters cast their ballots by mail or drop them off.

And with competitive congressional races in Washington state and California, the outcome of any close race could take days to determine.

COMPETITIVE RACES TOO CLOSE TO CALL?: Three of Washington state's 10 U.S. House races are being watched nationally as Democrats eye potential gains that could determine control of the chamber. The party needs a net gain of 23 seats nationwide to win back the House. California — where more than 67 percent voted by mail in the primary — has more than half a dozen competitive races in GOP-held districts.

WHAT DOES ELECTION NIGHT IN A VOTE-BY-MAIL STATE LOOK LIKE?: In a state that doesn't require ballots to be in by election night, like Washington, a significant portion of the vote will not be processed until the day or days after the election.

Washington state's 39 counties all post their initial results — of ballots received in the previous days — after 8 p.m. on election night. Many counties do daily updates after that, but because of the number of steps involved in ballot verification, including sorting, signature verification and assessment of ballots for extraneous marks, the updates can feel painfully slow.

In California voters also have the option of balloting by mail. Those ballots too must be postmarked by Election Day and received no later than three days later. In past elections, some close California races have not been called for days.

HOW MANY STATES VOTE BY MAIL? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states and the District of Columbia offer some type of early voting, and 27 states and D.C. offer "no-excuse" absentee voting. While more than 20 states allow certain elections to be held by mail, only Washington, Oregon and Colorado conduct all elections exclusively by mail.

Colorado and Oregon both require that ballots, whether they are mailed or dropped off, be received by elections officials no later than Election Day. In Washington state, ballots just need to be postmarked by Election Day.

WHAT DO SUPPORTERS OF VOTE-BY-MAIL SAY? Former secretaries of state, Phil Keisling of Oregon and Sam Reed of Washington, co-wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in September lauding what they call "vote-at-home" laws that they credit for higher turnout in those states. More than 80 percent of voters in Oregon and Washington returned their ballots in the 2016 general election; the national turnout rate was about 61 percent.

"Vote-at-home's power derives from it being an opt-out rather than an opt-in election system," they wrote. "Election Day realities for other voters — bad weather or traffic jams, work schedules and family obligations — don't thwart our voters in exercising their most fundamental of rights."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 396501

Reported Deaths: 5268
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah61066850
Washington42631406
Marion40277517
Clackamas33256388
Lane30473363
Jackson25211363
Deschutes23984192
Umatilla15155184
Linn14966184
Douglas13608295
Josephine10357248
Yamhill9878145
Klamath9120152
Polk8347103
Benton622940
Malheur593592
Coos5806109
Columbia441156
Jefferson426066
Lincoln367952
Crook343958
Union341456
Wasco319646
Clatsop265435
Baker222533
Tillamook219846
Hood River217237
Morrow198425
Curry194239
Harney121733
Grant109116
Lake106318
Wallowa76313
Sherman1933
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1161
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5127121

Reported Deaths: 74911
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles153745027248
San Diego4104514351
Riverside3912955388
San Bernardino3784085998
Orange3367395771
Sacramento1699162460
Kern1588341838
Fresno1581872284
Santa Clara1536961933
Alameda1262241513
San Joaquin1084911837
Ventura1049251194
Contra Costa1046451058
Stanislaus922291434
Tulare869791102
San Francisco57458674
San Mateo56861631
Monterey52973626
Solano48014360
Santa Barbara47846555
Merced45506672
Sonoma43609414
Placer42736473
Imperial39148778
Kings35547369
San Luis Obispo31803360
Madera26511311
Shasta26353462
Butte25690320
Santa Cruz22540224
Yolo21792263
Marin18728249
El Dorado18544168
Sutter14691186
Napa13501107
Yuba1084791
Humboldt10360119
Tehama10329133
Nevada10187105
Mendocino873799
Lassen801259
San Benito793979
Tuolumne782691
Lake7073113
Amador583267
Siskiyou480757
Glenn460336
Calaveras449988
Del Norte380442
Colusa329821
Inyo259446
Plumas19679
Mono19274
Mariposa163318
Trinity102117
Modoc7956
Unassigned3820
Sierra2210
Alpine1080
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