What to know about midterm elections and when we'll know results

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Wednesday, November 9, 2022
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Californians hit the polls to vote on a number of issues for the General Election.

2022 ELECTION RESULTS: Get the latest results across the San Francisco Bay Area

Democrats dominate California politics. The party controls all statewide elected offices, has super majorities in both houses of the state Legislature and controls 80% of the state's congressional seats. A Republican presidential candidate has not won California since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

But that doesn't mean Republicans can't have an impact in the nation's most populous state. California has multiple competitive congressional races that, should Republicans win, could give the GOP a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. That would catapult U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield into the speaker's office, replacing fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi for the next two years.

Voters in Los Angeles will pick a new mayor between longtime U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and billionaire developer Rick Caruso. Statewide, voters will decide the fate of seven ballot initiatives, including whether to make abortion a constitutional right and whether to allow sports betting.

CA ELECTION: From abortions to electric vehicles, here's what to know about CA's propositions

Elsewhere, most of California's statewide races are not competitive. Democratic U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla is expected to easily win election to a full six-year term after being appointed to the office last year to replace now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will likely cruise to a second term against Republican Brian Dahle, a little-known state senator who has struggled to raise money.

Republicans' best chance to win their first statewide election since 2006 is Lanhee Chen, a former policy adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who is running for controller. But winning will be difficult in a state where there are nearly twice as many registered Democratic voters as Republicans.

CA ELECTION: List of races to watch around San Francisco Bay Area, state

Here's a look at what to expect on election night:

How long will the polls be open on Election Day?

On Nov. 8, the polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

How California votes

All registered voters in California are sent a ballot in the mail about a month before Election Day, though they also can choose to vote instead at a polling place. Ballots can be mailed back, dropped in an official ballot box or brought to a polling place. To be counted, mailed ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 8 and county election officials must receive them by Nov. 15.

At polling places, some of which open before Election Day, voters can either go into a booth with a fresh ballot or drop off their mailed ballot -- but cannot do both. An unregistered voter can show up at a polling place and register through 8 p.m. local time on Election Day, when polls close.

What did we learn from the primary?

In the June primary, one-third of the almost 22 million registered voters cast ballots - mostly by mail. The 7,285,230 total votes were a new high for a California gubernatorial primary-slightly above the 7,141,947 votes cast in June 2018.

What's changed since the pandemic election of 2020?

Every registered California voter will get a ballot mailed to them under a bill signed in September of 2021 by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The law made permanent a change adopted during the pandemic for the 2020 election and the 2021 recall against Newsom. California, the nation's most populous state, joins several other Western states in mailing all voters a ballot, including Utah, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

Under the new law, ballots in California must go out at least 29 days before the election. Voters still have the option to drop off their ballot or vote in person. Prior to the pandemic, many Californians were already voting by mail.

What do turnout and advance vote look like?

As of Sept. 9, 2022, there were 21,885,545 registered voters in California, including 10,261,998 Democrats (46.89%), 5,225,578 Republicans (23.88%), 4,930,549 who indicated No Party Preference (22.53%) and 1,467,420 who indicated other party (6.70%).

In the 2020 general election, 17,785,151 ballots were cast. In 2018, 12,712,542 ballots were cast.

All registered voters receive ballots by mail issued 29 days before the election. Ballot drop boxes opened 28 days before the election. Mailed in Ballots can be received up to 7 days after the election if postmarked by Election Day - and ballots are still accepted if the postmark is missing or illegible.

How long does counting usually take?

In the 2020 general election, the first results came in just after 8 p.m. local time (11 p.m. ET), with half of all precincts reporting by 12:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) that night. In the 2020 general election, 32.3% of the total vote count was not counted on election night. In the 2018 general election, 43.8% of the total vote count was not counted on election night.

What are the pitfalls with early returns?

Knowing how the state processes ballots is key to understanding trends in the vote count on election night and the days after. In California, officials can begin processing ballots - such as checking signatures - 29 days before the election, but a vote count cannot be released until polls close on election day. Mail ballots that are received by county elections officials before election day are typically counted on Election Day, along with in-person votes. Many more mail ballots are dropped off at polling places, drop box locations, or arrive at county elections offices on election day. Finally, mail ballots can be received up to seven days after the election, if postmarked by Election Day.

California ballot processing rules and the demographics of voters who decide to vote early, on Election Day, in person or by mail are both important contributors to the trends visible in the vote count on Election Day and in the days after.

What happens after Tuesday?

Lots of counting. With millions of ballots counted after Election Day, the outcome of tight races can shift and take days or weeks to determine. Since California sends a ballot to every registered voter, election officials will accept mailed ballots for seven days after Election Day, as long as it was postmarked by Nov. 8. California does not have an automatic recount law, but a registered voter may request one in a statewide contest, but must pay for it. The governor can order a state-funded recount on statewide races or ballot measures under certain circumstances, like a race margin being less than 1,000 votes or .015% of all ballots cast.

The secretary of state must certify statewide results within 38 days of Election Day.

Last day to register

The last day to register to vote for the Nov. 8, 2022, General Election was Oct. 24, 2022.

Vote-by-mail ballot

All California active registered voters will receive a vote-by-mail ballot. Your county elections office began mailing ballots no later than Oct. 10, 2022.

What will the ballot include?

  • 7 Ballot Propositions
  • Statewide candidates for U.S. Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Member of State Board of Equalization, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • U.S. Representative in Congress, State Senator, State Assembly Member
  • Supreme Court Justices, as well as other local candidates and local measures

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window

When's the latest I can return my vote-by-mail ballot?

Return your vote-by-mail ballot by mail with prepaid postage as long as it's postmarked on or before Election Day and received by Nov. 15 or in-person to a secure ballot drop box, to a voting location or your county elections office by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Where can I drop off my vote-by-mail ballot?

Drop-off locations for vote-by-mail ballots should open on Oct. 10 in all California counties. To find a location, click here.

How can I track my ballot?

The state is now offering an online service that allows you to track and receive notifications on the status of your vote-by-mail ballot. You can sign up by heading to WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov and opt-in to receive automatic emails, SMS (texts), or voice call notifications about your ballot.

CA ELECTION: Find out how many ballots have been returned in California by county

When do early voting locations open?

Early voting locations are open from Oct. 10 to Nov. 7. You can either vote in person or pick up a vote-by-mail ballot at these locations.

How do I find my polling place?

Wondering where you go to vote on Election Day? Go here for California's polling place locator.

Can I still vote if I missed the deadline to register?

The short answer is yes. The state law is known as Conditional Voter Registration which is essentially a safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information for an election. Eligible citizens who need to register or re-register to vote within 14 days of an election can complete this process at their county elections office, polling place or vote center. Your ballot will be counted once your county elections office completes the voter registration verification process. Visit caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov for a list of early voting locations where you can complete the Same Day Voter Registration Process.

How many ballots have been returned in California?

Click here to open in a new window

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.