For candidates still waiting, it’s agonizing as Sacramento’s election results trickle in

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors candidate Jaclyn Moreno looks at close election results with campaign manager Ryan Brown at an election night party at Waterman Brewing in Elk Grove on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Renée C. Byer/rbyer@sacbee.com)

In less than 24 hours, Jaclyn Moreno could learn that she is a new Sacramento County Supervisor. Or Moreno could learn that she fell agonizingly short in her underdog bid to defeat Republican Pat Hume for an open seat on the county board. It’s been nearly a month since Election Day, and Moreno has been gaining on Hume in one of the closest local races in Sacramento.

“It’s a constant roller coaster every Tuesday and Friday,” said Moreno, who is trailing Hume by less than 400 votes in the Sacramento County race for District 5 Supervisor.

Tuesdays and Fridays are when the county updates its election website. But for candidates who have spent the last six months — sometimes more — waiting for Election Day to come, it’s been a final twist of the thumbscrews waiting for results.

Opinion

The long wait is a consequence of California’s shift to vote by mail: The state legally accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day, as long as they arrive within a week. But that also means a large number of valid votes aren’t received until several days after the polls close.

California also allows same-day registration, provisional balloting, the correction of missing or deficient signatures and the redirection of ballots that get sent to the wrong county. The count will likely take a month or more, and in tight races such as Moreno’s, that likely means waiting until the bitter end.

But that doesn’t mean the wait is easy. Moreno’s current day job is as a mental health therapist, and if she wins, some of her clients will need special care and notice that they will need to switch to another therapist. She said she doesn’t know yet if she has to start that process for them.

“I’m in limbo, and my family is in limbo too,” Moreno said. “It’s incredibly challenging not knowing where I’m going to be two to three weeks from now.”

To offset the jitters, Moreno said she and her team are knocking on the doors of voters who had their ballots challenged because they lacked a signature or because the signature on the ballot did not match the one kept in county records. In such cases, the county sends letters to voters offering a way to “cure” a discrepancy and Moreno and her staff are encouraging voters to respond to the county letter so their votes will be counted.

“Every single last vote is going to matter in this election,” she said.

And if she doesn’t win? A recount may be out of the question as candidates have to pay for the cost of a recount, and Moreno said it’s unlikely she’ll be able to afford one.

Caity Maple, who was finally able to declare victory in the District 5 Sacramento City Council race on Tuesday, said she and her family took a trip to Europe just to take their minds off the race while the election results slowly rolled in.

“This system is extremely difficult for candidates but also for people engaged in the system,” Maple said. “It’s disconnecting people from the excitement of Election Day, and the excitement of Election Day is a draw for people.”

But several of the candidates I spoke with said that if they win, they want to look into why Sacramento County is one of the last election result holdouts in the state.

“The length that it takes is really tortuous,” Maple said. “I spent two years of my life on this crazy dream and you work toward this final date, which is Election Day, but now it’s the most anti-climactic thing ever.”