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Here’s when and how California primary election results will roll in

Cheryl Tyler casts her ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 3, 2022.
Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo
Cheryl Tyler casts her ballot at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 3, 2022.

Once the final ballots are mailed-in, placed in a drop box or cast-in person for California’s June 7 primary, the attention will turn to the election results.

But how quickly will those be made public? And will they tell us the outcome of the races right away?

Election officials and experts say the results will arrive in three separate waves, with the first being released shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. on June 7. 

The first wave will consist of results from the early-arriving vote-by-mail ballots, likely the ones that arrived a few days before the election, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.

To get those ballots ready, county election officials will have verified signatures on their envelopes and prepped them to be counted by high-speed scanning machines, she said. That allows counties to disseminate these early, partial results within minutes or seconds.

“People who go to the Secretary of State's website and are looking for election results right at 8:01 p.m., there will be some counties that will have results showing right at that time,” Alexander explained.

In Sacramento County, voters are invited to visit the registrar's office at 7000 65th Street where they can takeh a tour and observe how the vote counting process works, according to registrar of voters Janna Haynes. The county suggests you schedule your visit, which you can do on the county elections website.

“We now have a livestream set up in our tabulation room where people can view the tabulation room and watch the ballots actually being processed and counted," Haynes said. "And I think not only does that help with our security purposes, but it helps with the transparency, and I know that’s a really important issue for some people right now.”

You can watch the Sacramento vote count tabulation here.

While results from the first wave of vote-by-mail ballots used to skew heavily White and Republican, that is no longer the case. Paul Mitchell, who runs the polling firm Political Data Intelligence, told CapRadio's Insight, “That changed in 2020, in the general election, when the Trump campaign and messengers on right wing radio and Fox News were saying, Oh, you can’t trust, vote by mail, all these conspiracy theories.”

The early results still come disproportionately from older, suburban White voters. But now they are also more likely to come from Democrats than GOP voters, Mitchell said.

The election won’t be officially certified by the Secretary of State until July 15. Before then, CapRadio and NPR will rely on the Associated Press to call races. Here's how that process works. By late on election night or early the next morning, most contests with large margins should be decided, though it may take days to call the close contests.

The second wave of results will be released likely within an hour or two on election night, with some published early the next morning. Those will be from ballots cast in person on election day at voting sites.

After these two batches are published, some candidates with large leads might declare victory. But the outcome of tight races might not be known for days as mail ballots trickle into election offices.

State law requires counties to count all ballots that arrive up to seven days after the polls close as long as they are postmarked no later than 8 p.m. on June 7.

County election officials must verify results 30 days after the election. The Secretary of State’s Office must certify the election eight days later.

To find the voting site nearest you, visit here. All voting locations will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Check out CapRadio’s Voter Guide for more information about the June 7 primary.

Since 2015, Chris Nichols has worked as CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter where he fact-checks politicians in the Golden State both on-air and online. His work includes debunking social media misinformation and explaining complex statewide topics from California’s affordable housing and homelessness crises to election issues.
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