Not every vote counts — some LA and OC primary ballots rejected

A voter casts his vote at a polling station in Pasadena, California, on November 4, 2014.
A voter casts his vote at a polling station in Pasadena, California, on November 4, 2014.

Did you make sure your vote would count in the June primary? Not if you forgot to sign that vote-by-mail ballot.

Data from Los Angeles and Orange Counties show that a small but significant number of ballots weren't counted toward vote totals, for a number of reasons. These problems bedeviled both voters trying to cast vote-by-mail ballots from home and those filling out provisional ballots at polling places.

Votes don't count if someone forgets to sign a vote-by-mail ballot, or voted provisionally at a polling place without first being registered.

In Los Angeles County, 0.9 percent of vote-by-mail ballots, or 6,285 total ballots, were rejected. In Orange County that figure was 0.6 percent, or 2,653 ballots.

Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley was cheered by that figure. "I am encouraged by the fact that the rejection rate has declined when compared with 2014 and 2012.  We continue to outreach to voters in an effort to provide updated signatures when ballots are rejected," Kelley said.


In both Los Angeles and Orange counties, problems with vote-by-mail ballots frequently have to do with signatures. Ballots with no signature or signatures that didn't appear to match those on file were common reasons votes weren't counted in both counties.

Timing also matters: more than 5,000 voters in L.A. County mailed in their ballots too late for them to count. Because of a new law, voters can mail in ballots as late as election day, but those votes need to make it to election officials within three days. Anything postmarked after election day, or that arrives too late won't count.

In Orange County, 848 ballots came in too late.

Election officials also scrutinize provisional ballots cast at polling places to make sure the voter is registered, and didn't vote-by-mail or cast a ballot at another location.

In Orange County, 8,358 provisional ballots cast ultimately weren't counted. The majority of those, nearly 7,000, were cast by people who weren't registered voters.

The figure for Los Angeles was 24,338 rejected provisional ballots. More than 18,000 of those were tossed because the would-be voters weren't registered.

Counties don't report data on rejected ballots to the state. But they are required to let individual voters know if a provisional ballot was tallied. The Secretary of State posts contact information for voters to use in following up on their provisional ballots.