Why we are no longer using 'precincts reporting' in our election night coverage

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Why we are no longer using 'precincts reporting'
How we vote has changed, and so has how votes are counted. Here's why we are no longer using "precincts reporting" in our election coverage.

How we vote has changed.

We used to request a mail ballot or go to our local school, church or library to cast our ballot in person. Now, every registered voter in California receives a mail-in ballot, and can vote in person. Many Californians head to a vote center.

It does not have to be one near your home. You can vote at any vote center as long as it is in the county where you live. You can even vote early.

As how we vote evolves, so has how votes are counted. During previous elections, as results come in, we have told you the percentage of precincts reporting so you can tell how far along the vote count is.

A precinct is a geographic area with a single polling place where voters cast their ballot. Remember when you used to vote at your local school or library? That was the polling place for your precinct.

Once the polls closed, votes from each precinct would be counted, and the precincts reporting number would go up.

Now, with more mail in ballots, and with many counties using the vote center model, precincts no longer play as large a role in how votes are tabulated.

So on Election night as results are coming in, we will now use a new estimated number to show you how far along the vote count is.

We are calling it the "estimated total vote." This number will come from the Associated Press, a source we have used for election results for many years.

The AP uses many data points to estimate how far along the vote count is, including turnout in recent elections, the number of votes cast in advance, and early returns.

This estimate may fluctuate as more results come in and the AP learns more about how many people cast a ballot. But it will help us give you the most accurate description of the number of votes counted as the election unfolds.