We’ll get some election results in Los Angeles County tonight, but those numbers won’t be final. And in LA, there have been stunning shifts between what the results say as of election night, and in the weeks that follow. 

Some of the races will be called by national outlets and people may be able to estimate the outcomes based on how many ballots are still to be counted. Even then, if the results are close, they could be challenged and end up with a different result than initially projected. 

In 2022, for the 1st District LA City Council race, the initial results from election night had then-City Councilman Gil Cedillo ahead of challenger Eunisses Hernandez. But in the days after, with the LA County Registrar-Recorder counting more of the mail-in ballots, Hernandez ultimately pulled ahead and won that election.

One of the possible reasons for the shift in results could be that voters of different political persuasions may prefer different modes of voting. There is political conventional wisdom, based on some past election trends, that more conservative and/or Republican voters may tend to want to vote in person, as a result of fears of voter fraud. Democratic voters may be more likely to vote by mail because there is less of that worry among such voters.

That could mean that what batch of votes is being counted at a particular stage may affect the results. Even on election night, there could be “whiplash” between the first results posted just after 8 p.m., and the ones that come out later in the evening, says Paul Mitchell, who owns California-based voter data firm, Political Data, Inc., which has been tracking ballot returns.

Mitchell noted that in this particular election, there has so far been record-low voter turnout, and those who have come out to vote are older and whiter than the electorate. 

He also noted that as of this weekend, in the 14th District LA city council race, the turnout was 8%. That is lower than in 2022, when turnout was 12%, as of the weekend before the election, for the Eastside district. 

This is despite this being a presidential election year, and the race including a candidate, the incumbent Kevin de Leon, who is one of the people at the center of a major leaked audio scandal that prompted the resignation of former city council president Nury Martinez.

“More ink has been spilled over Kevin de Leon and that race than almost any race in any other city and the turnout is lower than what it was two years ago, right now,” Mitchell said.

Here is the schedule for what ballots are part of the results we’ll be seeing tonight, after polls close at 8 p.m.:

  • Just after 8:30 p.m., the results posted will be based on ballots mailed and received by the county before Tuesday, the traditional day of the election. 
  • Then between 8:45 p.m. to 9 p.m., the county will post results from ballots cast at the various Vote Centers scattered around the county.
  • For the remainder of the night, the results posted will be based on ballots cast at Vote Centers on Tuesday.

After Tuesday, vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked as of election day and received by the county within seven days will be counted, along with provisional ballots and conditional voter registration ballots, which are cast by people who do same-day registration.

LA County will continue to give updates in the weeks that follow. This week, results will be posted every weekday, until March 15. The county also has reserved March 18, 19, 22, and 26 to give updates. The tentative goal is to finalize the certified results before the end of the month by March 29.

The county’s ballot counting schedule can be found here.

Elizabeth has been on the local government beat since 2006, and likes making her friends take public transportation for her birthday.