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SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Two days after Election Day, there were still two tight congressional races in Orange County — significant because the two incumbents fighting to keep their seats are part of the so-called “blue wave” from the midterm election two years ago.
Workers count ballots at a warehouse for the Orange County Registrar of Voters. (CBSLA)
In the 39th Congressional District, Republican challenger Young Kim held onto her lead Thursday with 50.43% of the vote, compared to Democratic incumbent Rep. Gil Cisneros’ 49.57%. Kim leads by roughly 2,500 votes with 93.22% of precincts reporting.
The district covers parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, including Fullerton, La Habra, La Habra Heights, Brea, Buena Park, Anaheim Hills, Placentia, Yorba Linda, Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights.
In the 48th Congressional District, Democrat incumbent Rep. Harley Rouda is trying to hold onto his seat against Republican challenger Michelle Steel.
The district includes Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach, Seal Beach and parts of Garden Grove, Midway City, Aliso Viejo, Santa Ana and Westminster.
As of Thursday afternoon, Steel was holding onto her lead with 50.67% of the vote, compared to Rouda’s 49.33%. Steel leads by roughly 4,800 votes with 97.85% of precincts reporting.
And Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said results for some races might not be available for weeks.
“You’re going to have individual ballots that might make a difference in that particular race, and that could take two weeks,” he said.
Kelley said he has until Nov. 20 to accept ballots as long as they were properly postmarked. It’s a change made in the state during the pandemic to account for potential postal delays. In prior elections, votes had to be in three days after the election.
“Everything now is what was mailed on Election Day, dropped off on Election Day or put into a dropbox,” Kelley said. “So that’s going to take a few days to process to get that done.”
Once ballots make it to the registrar’s warehouse, it goes through seven steps before being counted. On average, it takes a ballot 36 hours to make its way through the entire system because of California’s required checks and balances.
“People talk about they don’t want fraud, but we want it quickly,” Kelley said. “You can’t have both.”
Kelley said it would take a week and a half for the verification and counting of ballots from voters who registered and voted on Election Day — 30,000 ballots in total.
Ultimately, the time it takes for California to complete its vote count comes down to the large volume of vote-by-mail ballots.
“Vote-by-mail in California is what slows it down, because there’s all those checks and balances that do not exist on in-person voting,” Kelley said. “In-person voting is done on Election Day, the results come out pretty quick.”
More than 1.3 million ballots have been processed in Orange County, with vote counts updated every day at 5 p.m.