The early vote count is underway in Fresno County

75,000 mail in ballots already counted

Ballot counting is underway and will continue well past election day Tuesday. Vote by mail signatures are already being verified and ballots are being counted. State law allows elections workers to start counting absentee ballots ten days before the election process.

Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth says it's a timely process. "All vote by mail ballot envelopes have to have the signature on them compared to the signature on the voter registration card. So we use the machines to help us do that."

Once the signature is verified then it's time to open the mail. "It will slit open the top side of the envelope. It will pull the envelope across the conveyor. The suction cup opens the envelope. The operator removes the folded ballot and sets it to the side."

As of Tuesday 75-thousand mail in ballots has been counted. More than 200-thousand voters in Fresno County requested absentee ballots. You might call this the calm before the storm on election night Tuesday.

Precinct workers are being trained this week for a long day on Tuesday. When the polls close there are rules to be followed before workers can close down the polling place. "The precinct officer will start to seal up the unused ballots, will start to close up the voting equipment and sign off on that."

That has to be done before the memory card in the vote counting machine at 280 precincts can be handed off to elections workers at 35 locations in the county. "We're a county of 6000 square miles and it takes a long time to come that way. If that equipment isn't getting picked up until 8:30 or 9:00 you can see where there would be a delay in that."

That's one reason why it takes all night for election returns to give a true snap shot of Tuesday night winners and losers. Fresno County has 28 days after the election to count all late arriving absentee and provisional ballots.

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