An estimated 4.5 million votes, which could determine the outcome of California’s expensive and hard-fought race for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, have yet to be counted, state officials said Thursday.
Election results showed former school executive Marshall Tuck’s lead over Richmond Assemblyman Tony Thurmond narrowed slightly on Thursday, though Tuck was still ahead 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent. Tuck led Thurmond by 69,349 votes, down from about 86,000 votes on Wednesday.
But according to the Secretary of State’s office, about 4.5 million votes remain to be tallied. That figure includes vote-by-mail ballots that were sent in or dropped off on Election Day, as well as provisional ballots and those cast by voters who registered on Tuesday.
Results from those ballots are now trickling in as they are counted.
Whether they solidify a Tuck victory, provide enough votes for Thurmond to overcome his deficit or further tighten the race and lead one of the campaigns to request a recount remains to be seen.
Tuck has not claimed victory in the race despite his slim lead.
“I think this is a lead that will hold but I’m not sure of it; 86,000 votes is meaningful but not a ton,” Tuck told EdSource Thursday morning. “It puts us at a better starting point.”
The Thurmond campaign did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The Secretary of State’s estimate for the number of uncounted ballots came from election officials in 50 of California’s 58 counties. Only one county, tiny Sierra County north of Lake Tahoe, reported it had no uncounted ballots.
In Los Angeles County, where Thurmond led Tuck by 10.8 percentage points, officials estimated 984,000 ballots were still uncounted.
Most of the uncounted votes — an estimated 3.3 million of them statewide — are mail ballots, which will still be counted if they arrive by Friday and were postmarked on or before Election Day.
There were about 1 million provisional ballots, which are cast by voters who are not on their polling place’s official registration list and are counted after those voters are verified. The other 125,554 ballots include those cast by people with same-day “conditional” voter registration, ballots that were damaged and needed to be remade and ballots that required further review, according to the Secretary of State.
It’s not clear how long it will take for the rest of the ballots to be counted. A spokesman for the office said only that counties have until Dec. 7 to certify their results.
Another unknown: How many of the voters who cast those remaining ballots made a choice between Tuck and Thurmond.
In 2014, nearly one in five ballots did not include a vote in the state superintendent race. If the same share of voters skipped this year’s contest, the remaining number of votes for superintendent could be closer to 3.7 million.
EdSource staffers John Fensterwald and Daniel J. Willis contributed to this report.
This story was updated at 6:30 p.m., November 8, to include new information from the Secretary of State’s Office.