Commonly asked questions by voters
Nov 05, 2012 | 6065 views | 0 0 comments | 848 848 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The Santa Cruz County Elections Department has provided the following information about the 2012 Presidential Election.

Q: When will the election results start to come in on Election Night?

A: The Santa Cruz County Clerk plans to post results of vote-by-mail ballots returned and processed before November 6 by 8:30 p.m. on election night. First report from the precincts is expected at approximately 10:30 p.m. election night. Next report will be released at midnight. Once all available ballots have been counted a final report of semi-official results will be posted.

Q: When will the election results be final?

A. Final report for the night with semi-official results will be posted once ballot counting is done and all precincts have reported. This should occur around 2 a.m. Results will be posted online at In close contests, a clear winner may not be apparent for many days or weeks, as county elections officials verify and count thousands of unprocessed ballots that include vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots cast at polling places, and others. By law, counties have 28 days (until December 4) to complete our official canvass of the votes. The county clerk shall prepare a certified statement of the results of the election and submit it to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors shall declare the winners for each office and the results of each measure under its jurisdiction. While the County Clerk cannot announce the winner of a contest before all ballots are counted, news media sometimes choose to “call an election” sooner.

We will also provide a link to the Secretary’s election results website which includes pending results for all state and federal contests, and will be refreshed as often as county elections officials provide updated data.

Q: What is the County Clerk’s voter turnout prediction?

A: The County Clerk does not predict voter turnout and discourages voters from focusing on such predictions. Voter turnout for general elections in presidential election years since 1976 has ranged from 70 percent to 86.7 percent of registered voters in Santa Cruz County. In an effort to project future turnout, some media and polling organizations survey potential voters and analyze historical statistics available at 

Q: How many Santa Cruz County residents are registered to vote?

A: Of the 183,151 persons eligible to vote in Santa Cruz County, at the close of registration we had 158,524 registered voters in Santa Cruz County. This number may change slightly as we do final clean up of our voter file before Election Day.

Q: Can Californians register to vote on Election Day?

A: No. The last day to register to vote was October 22. There is no Election Day registration for the November 6 election. A new law permitting Election Day registration will not take effect for several years. 

Q: How many Santa Cruz County voters are voting by mail? 

A: Vote-by-mail voting has steadily increased in popularity in the years since California law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by mail. As of November 4, there were 79,551 voters in Santa Cruz County who have requested a vote-by-mail ballot. This far exceeds our last record number set in November 2010.

Q. I still have my vote-by-mail ballot, how can I return it?

Ballots must be received by the County Elections Official by 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2012 – postmark is not acceptable. Therefore, it is too late to return the ballot the ballot by mail. The law requires a vote-by-mail voter to return their voted ballot to their county of residence.

Drop Boxes – No postage is necessary – available until 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 6

  • 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. There is a white mail box receptacle in front of the County Building.
  • 215 Union Street, Watsonville. The green box, typically reserved for payments to the City, is located in the parking lot behind City Hall in front of the Police Department.

Hand Deliver It – Ballots can be hand delivered to:

  • The County Elections Office – 701 Ocean Street, Room 210
  • City Clerks Offices in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Capitola
  • Any polling site in Santa Cruz County on Election Day – polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. A list is posted online at and included with the vote-by-mail ballot.

A vote by mail voter who, because of illness or other physical disability, is unable to return the ballot, may designate his or her spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household as the vote by mail voter to return the ballot to the elections official from whom it came or to the precinct board at any polling place within the jurisdiction.

Q: Are vote-by-mail and provisional ballots always counted – even in “landslide” elections?  

A: Yes, every valid ballot returned to county elections officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day is counted in every election, regardless of the ballot type or the margin in any particular contest. 

Q: What is provisional voting? 

A: Provisional voting ensures that no person is denied the right to cast a ballot.  If, for any reason, a voter’s name is not on the polling place list, he or she has the right to cast a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot will be counted after county elections officials have confirmed the voter is registered to vote and the voter did not already cast a ballot elsewhere in the election. Past provisional voter numbers are available at

Q: How do county elections officials count vote-by-mail and provisional ballots? 

A: Counting several thousand vote-by-mail and provisional ballots is a labor-intensive process. For each ballot, a county elections official must compare the voter’s signature on the outside of the envelope to the signature on the voter’s original  registration record to ensure the signatures match. To preserve secrecy, the ballot is then separated from the envelope, and added to the pile of ballots to be tallied.  In Santa Cruz County, we begin processing vote-by-mail ballots up to seven business days before the election, though no results can be released until  all polls close on Election Day.  With more and more people voting by mail, elections officials often need the full amount of time allowed by law to complete this manual process.   

Q: How can a voter find out if his or her ballot was counted?   

A:  Under federal law, a voter who casts a provisional ballot is entitled to find out from the county elections office whether the ballot was counted and if not, why not. Under state law, a voter who casts a vote-by-mail ballot can find out if the ballot arrived at the county elections office. In Santa Cruz County, voters can call  the County Clerk/Elections Department at 831-454-2060 or go online to to check the status of their vote-by-mail ballot. This information is usually fully updated by 7 days after the election. To check the status of a voter’s provisional ballot, voters can either call us at 831-454-2060 or email us at Information on provisional voter ballot status is usually not available until 15 to 28 days after the election.

Q: What types of statewide measures are on the ballot and when could they go into effect? 

A: There are 10 statewide initiatives and one referendum on the November 6 ballot.  All 11 state ballot measures require a simple majority of the public’s vote to be enacted.  If approved, the measure takes effect the day after the election, unless the measure’s language specifies otherwise.

Q: What types of local measures are on the ballot and when could they go into effect? 

A: There are 7 local measures on the November 6 ballot.

L - Pajaro Valley Unified School-Bond Measure - 55% To Pass

M -Pacific Elementary School District-Bond - 55% To Pass

N - Santa Cruz County Transient Occupancy - Majority to Pass

O - City of Capitola Sales Tax - Majority to Pass

P - City of Santa Cruz Desalination-Projects - Majority to Pass

Q - City of Santa Cruz Transient Occupancy - Majority to Pass

R - City of Watsonville-Mobile Home Parks - Majority to Pass

Q: Can voters ask for assistance when voting?

A:  Yes, voters who need assistance when voting are encouraged to ask a poll worker or county elections staffer for help.  Also, if a voter makes a mistake on his or her ballot, the voter can notify a poll worker, who will void the incorrect ballot and provide a new one. Vote-by-mail voters may also request a new ballot if they return their original ballot to an elections official prior to the 8:00 p.m. closing of the polls on Election Day.

Q: Can a vote-by-mail voter opt to vote in person at a polling place?

A: Yes, a vote-by-mail voter can bring his or her un-voted ballot to the polling place and turn it over to a poll worker, who will then void the ballot and provide a new one.  If the voter doesn’t have the vote-by-mail ballot, a provisional ballot will be provided.

Q: What happens if a vote-by-mail voter does not receive a ballot in the mail?

A: A vote-by-mail voter who did not receive a ballot in the mail can contact the county elections official to request a ballot or go to any polling place in the county on Election Day and cast a provisional ballot.

Q: Can businesses or campaigns offer coupons or gifts to people who prove they voted?

A: No, no one may offer incentives to people for agreeing to vote for or against a particular person or measure. This is illegal under state and federal law.

Q: Is there a toll-free hotline for voters who still have questions on Election Day?

A: Voters can call Santa Cruz County Elections at 831-454-2060 or 1-866-282-5900 which will be answered live. Voters may also call the California Secretary of State’s toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683), which will be answered live throughout Election Day and the day before.  Voters can get the address of their polling place, ask election-related questions, or confidentially report potential election fraud or voter intimidation.

Keep up with the latest California election news and trivia by following the Santa Cruz County Clerk @votescount vote on Twitter.

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