Update: This story was updated at 9 a. m. on Nov. 15 to reflect latest count from the California Secretary of State.

In what may be a pivotal moment in the race, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, has maintained his lead over Marshall Tuck in the contest for California’s state superintendent of public instruction based on the ongoing tallying of millions of uncounted ballots.

Thurmond has not only erased the 86,000 vote lead Marshall Tuck enjoyed in the post-election day count, but leads Tuck by just over 74,000  votes, according to the latest figures released Wednesday evening by the California Secretary of State.

The post-election day count of a week ago did not include the estimated 4.8 million uncounted votes, consisting mainly of  mail-in ballots and provisional ballots issued at polling stations.

The latest figures indicate that Thurmond has 50.5 percent of the vote and Tuck 49.5  percent. Thurmond currently has 4,169,323 votes, compared to Tuck’s 4,094,393.

For the most recently posted results on the race, check out EdSource’s vote tracker here.

Although millions of ballots have yet to be counted, the momentum in the race now appears to be clearly in Thurmond’s favor. Ever since county election officials began tallying the uncounted ballots last week, Thurmond has outpaced Tuck in the vote count. Each day he has cut into Tuck’s lead substantially, and has now overtaken him.

Thurmond and Tuck are running to replace the incumbent superintendent Tom Torlakson, who is termed out after serving two four-year terms.

While the superintendent himself does not have substantial policy-making powers, as the top official in the nation’s largest school system, with over 6 million students and 10,000 schools, he occupies a highly visible bully pulpit to be able to influence education reforms  and debates not only in California but across the nation.

He also runs the California Department of Education, and in that role can influence how state and federal programs and policies are implemented in schools across the state.

At least 3 million outstanding ballots have yet to be reported to Secretary of State’s office by Wednesday afternoon.

At the Alameda County’s voter registrar’s office in downtown Oakland on Tuesday, vote tabulation was in full swing.  Tim Dupuis, the county registrar of voters, said the county has about 90,000 votes left to count, out of 250,000 that were uncounted after election night. The county had vote counters work overtime and through the long weekend. He projects that the county will have what he called the “unofficial final” tally done by the end of the week.

Dozens of people were working Tuesday to process ballots in the windowless basement of the Alameda County Superior Courthouse. In one room, several rows of workers removed stacks of ballots from envelopes and arranged them into piles, while another group examined and remade ballots that had been damaged. Down the hall, more workers fed stacks of ballots into scanners, which spat out piles of counted ballots into one tray and those the machine could not read into another above it.

Similar scenes were being played out in dozens of counties throughout California.  As of Wednesday afternoon, Los Angeles County, by far the state’s largest, still had to report the results of 688,000 uncounted ballots.

The high number of uncounted ballots this year is not unusual. In fact, the number of uncounted ballots was almost as high two years ago during the November 2016 presidential election.

“This is consistent with past vote counts in California, particularly in high turnout elections,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. But, he said, “the use of vote-by-mail ballots has consistently increased over the past decade and a half.”

An estimated two-thirds of the uncounted ballots are mail-in ballots postmarked by or before Nov. 6, but arrived too late to be counted by Election Day.

Another fifth are provisional ballots issued on Election Day. A provisional ballot is a regular ballot put in a special envelope before being put in the ballot box. One reason for issuing a provisional ballot is if a voter believes he or she is registered to vote, even though their names are not on the official voter registration list. Another reason is they had signed up to vote by mail, but did not receive their ballot, or instead chose to vote at their neighborhood polling place.

A much smaller number — about 5 percent — are damaged ballots, ballots that could not be machine-read or those that were rejected by optical scanners for further review.

In the tally of new votes counted since Election Day Thurmond is leading Tuck by a 53.8 to 46.2 percent margin, according to an EdSource analysis.

Tuck has the majority vote in 41 out of 58 counties, but in new votes counted, Thurmond is doing better in 36 counties than he did in the original count.

Even in counties where Tuck was clearly ahead in the original precinct count, Thurmond is closing the gap. For example, a week ago, Tuck was ahead 59.2 percent to 40.8 percent in Orange County, but votes counted since then have gone to Tuck by a narrower margin — 52.2 percent to Tuck and 46.8 percent to Thurmond.

Nico Savidge and Daniel Willis also contributed to this story. 

Support independent journalism

If this article helped keep you informed and engaged with California education, would you consider supporting the nonprofit organization that brought it to you?

EdSource is participating in NewsMatch, a campaign to keep independent, nonprofit journalism strong. A gift to EdSource now means your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000 per donation through the end of 2018. That means double the support for the reporters, editors and data specialists who brought you this story. Please make a contribution today.

Share Article

Comments (4)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Rose Rowlett 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Woke up with hope after reading Louis Freedberg’s comments on how the race is progressing. I voted for Tony Thurmond. My question is how do we hold those we elect accountable?

  2. Robert D. Skeels, JD 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Let's hope this trend continues and that public school supporter Tony Thurmond is victorious. I can't imagine the damage Marshall Tuck, who closed Ethnic Studies Programs, Heritage Language Programs, Dual Language Immersion Programs, and Health Education Programs at schools predominantly attended by students of color, would do if in a state-wide position of power. Tuck’s privatization agenda is hauntingly similar to that of Betsy DeVos, and his penchant for “English only” is also too Trump-like for … Read More

    Let’s hope this trend continues and that public school supporter Tony Thurmond is victorious.

    I can’t imagine the damage Marshall Tuck, who closed Ethnic Studies Programs, Heritage Language Programs, Dual Language Immersion Programs, and Health Education Programs at schools predominantly attended by students of color, would do if in a state-wide position of power. Tuck’s privatization agenda is hauntingly similar to that of Betsy DeVos, and his penchant for “English only” is also too Trump-like for comfort. Tuck’s callous closure of critical programs did nothing to bolster his schools’ standardized tests, which were absolute bottom dwellers academically under his “leadership.”

    For documentation of all assertions supra, please see: https://dailybruin.com/2018/10/28/submission-marshall-tucks-track-record-proves-him-unfit-as-state-superintendent-candidate/

  3. Concerned Angeleno 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    It doesn’t matter who gets elected as long as they have the backbone to get the job done. The authorities need to do something about the sexual and physical assaults perpetrated by UTLA on members. I’m not sure that Tony Thurmond would have the backbone to do what’s right, since CTA financed his campaign.

  4. Ms. Jan 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Tony Thurmond!
    What a relief! Now there is hope for the solvency of our public school system, where every child is welcome through the front door. We need you and we welcome you, Tony Thurmond, as our greatest hope come true. Finally. CTA/Public School Teachers, Kids, Families, Communities. Thanks.