Record number of mail ballots could delay primary results

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego County Registrar of Voters sent out more mail ballots than ever before this election season, and that could impact how long it takes to tally up the votes, officials said Tuesday.

More than 1.1 million mail ballots were sent out to San Diego County residents for the June 5 primary election -- meaning the majority of the county's 1.69 million registered voters will likely skip the voting booth.

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Voters who want to avoid paying postage to return their ballots may find it more convenient to drop them off at the polls on Election Day, but that means the registrar's office can't start counting them until Thursday at the earliest because the ballot's signatures need to be verified first.

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Officials expect 150,000 to 200,000 mail ballots to be dropped off on Election Day.

"This is not really a new phenomenon," San Diego County Registrar Michael Vu said. "We're just likely to have a higher volume of outstanding ballots."

The bulk of the votes should be in by about 11 p.m., the registrar's office said, but even after all the ballots from Election Day are counted, the large amount of mail ballots means only about 55 to 60 percent of the vote will be counted Tuesday night.

"It's not over on election night and it hasn't been for a long, long time," Vu said. "Close contests are not decided until all the ballots are in the count."

It could take weeks to count all votes from any elections that end up being very tight, he said.

"Between mail ballots and provisional ballots, a close count always comes to the very end," the registrar said. "We must do our due diligence to make sure everything is right."

The results for each contest, however, must be certified 30 days after Election Day, on July 5.