OAKLAND -- Alameda County election officials on Wednesday were still counting an estimated 140,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots not included in the tally for the county's Nov. 6 elections.

It will likely be at least Nov. 21 before election results are certified, said Alameda County Registrar Dave Macdonald. Under the law, the county has 28 days to certify the election. But workers -- who calmly sit and sort, inspect and run ballots through machines -- have an incentive to work quickly.

"We will likely certify just before Thanksgiving," Macdonald said. "That way they don't have to work that day."

Macdonald said an estimated 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots were dropped at Alameda County polling places Tuesday, and still need to be processed. Another roughly 40,000 provisional ballots also still need to processed and verified.

"We have to research every single one of these," said Macdonald, pointing to cartons and cartons of ballots.

Provisional ballots are cast if a voter is not on the election roaster at his or her specified polling place or the voter went to the wrong polling place, among other reasons, Macdonald said.

The latest vote total for Alameda County is roughly 414,000 ballots, representing about 51 percent of the electorate, according to the registrar's office. Those are the ballots that are cast at the polls and do not include the 140,000 outstanding ballots.


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With several races too close to call, the added ballots could determine victory or defeat for some candidates.

Although there is a lot of work still ahead, there were few problems election day, Macdonald said. The registrar's help desk fielded a couple hundred calls from poll workers in need of assistance and a few of the 1,800 machines at the polls malfunctioned but all in all, it was a good day for the democratic process.

"I will say this election was very smooth. For a major presidential election, I really couldn't be much happier," said Macdonald, who has been the registrar for seven years and worked for the county for nearly 30 years.

Counting the outstanding ballots -- in this high-tech world -- is still somewhat of a low-tech process.

Dozens of workers work silently in the windowless registrar office in the basement of the Alameda County Courthouse on Fallon Street, focused on the sorting through vote-by-mail ballots in yellow and teal envelopes.

Signatures on the outside of each envelope are electronically checked against the registration signatures in the registrar's database. "If it's rejected, we'll go through a manual inspection," Mcdonald said.

Envelopes are all slit open on a fast moving envelope-cutting machine, a process that must be watched closely to ensure that the ballots inside are not cut as well, and not damaged to the point that they can't be counted by the optical scanning machines, said registrar spokesman Guy Ashley.

Contra Costa County was also counting stacks of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots on Wednesday.

Contra Costa County elections officials said that approximately 60,000 vote-by-mail ballots dropped at polling stations on election day or received in the mail after the weekend, have yet to be counted. Another 3 percent to 4 percent of the ballots yet to be counted are provisional ballots.

Registrar Steve Weir said his staff will likely start counting the outstanding vote-by-mail ballots Friday. Before the uncounted ballots are added in, the county's vote tally is 337,124 ballots, representing about a 60 percent turnout.

Staff writer Lisa Vorderbrueggen contributed to this report. Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender. Reach Angela Woodall at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/awoodall.com.