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Nearly a million ballots still uncounted in Los Angeles County, leaving at least one race in question

Nearly a million ballots still uncounted in Los Angeles County, leaving at least one race in question
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, pictured on election night, and challenger Alex Villanueva are locked in a hotly contested race for sheriff. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The election may be over, but officials say nearly a million ballots have yet to be counted in Los Angeles County, leaving the outcome of one tight race up in the air.

Of the estimated 984,000 outstanding ballots, almost 60% are vote-by-mail ballots collected at the polls or postmarked on or before election day, and nearly 40% are provisional ballots, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

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The agency will continue to log vote-by-mail ballots postmarked appropriately through Friday.

A tiny percentage of outstanding ballots include conditional and miscellaneous ballots. About 4,000 people in Los Angeles County cast ballots under the Conditional Voter Registration program, which allows residents who missed the voter registration deadline to vote. About 8,000 more ballots are in the miscellaneous category, which include those that have write-ins, are damaged, need to be remade or require further review.

The uncounted ballots could sway the Los Angeles County sheriff’s race, which has so far been too close to call. Incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell is in jeopardy of being ousted as his challenger, retired Sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva, took a razor-thin lead in the race to head one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

With 100% of precincts reporting Wednesday, Villanueva was ahead by only 4,927 votes. Historically, the sheriff of L.A. County could count on being easily reelected in the primary, but Villanueva disrupted that pattern when he became one of only four challengers in the last century to push a sitting sheriff into a runoff.

Meanwhile, in Orange County, about 400,000 ballots remain to be counted.

Voters in Anaheim were split on a “living wage” initiative that would require hospitality businesses that accept a city tax subsidy to pay hourly wages of at least $15. Measure L was leading by only about 500 votes Wednesday.

Also close is the race to represent Orange County’s 48th Congressional District. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher trailed his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, by just 3,602 votes Wednesday evening.

Times staff writer Maya Lau contributed to this report.

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