As Napa County Registrar of Voters, I have three main duties: to encourage every eligible voter to register; to help every registered voter to vote and to make sure every vote counts. Making sure every vote counts takes time and careful attention, especially in a Presidential election with a turnout approaching 85 percent.

I have to balance the interest of candidates and agencies in receiving early results with the public’s need to have confidence in the accuracy of the election as set forth in our California Election Code. Our five dedicated staff, with the help of almost 100 citizen workers, has already published four interim results, covering 95 percent of all votes cast.

Of course, in a close election with slender margins such as the second seat on the American Canyon City Council or the third seat on the Calistoga Joint Unified School District, only the final certified results will determine the outcome.

Since Election Day, our team has processed more than 28,000 vote-by-mail ballots received between Saturday, Nov. 5 and Monday Nov. 14. Each of those ballots, like the 28,000 we processed and released at 8:01 p.m. on Election Day, require signature verification to ensure the legitimacy of the ballot. Once verified, the ballots are prepared for counting by our citizen volunteers.

During counting, whenever our optical scanners cannot determine voter intent or there is a write-in vote (most of which are for unqualified names), our regular staff has to review 6,000 ballot images to make sure every vote on every ballot is counted accurately. A video available at this link shows each of the steps in that process (Editor's note: The video is attached to the online version of this letter). The video is posted on our election results web page and on Napa County’s social media sites.

In addition to counting these additional 28,000 vote-by- mail ballots, final certified results cannot be released until three additional steps are completed: processing 774 provisional ballots that are provided to voters who do not appear on the registration roll or have other issues with their vote by mail ballot; duplicating 1,500 overseas voter and damaged ballots to get them ready for counting, and performing a manual tally of approximately 2,000 machine-counted ballots, selected at random, to confirm the accuracy of the machine count.

This final step cannot begin until all categories of ballots have been counted. We expect to release final certified results well before our deadline of Dec. 9.

Please contact me at 707-253-4459 or if you have questions or comments.

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John Tuteur

Registrar of voters

Napa County