When will we know the results of the California recall election? Here is what we know

A voter in a voting booth
UCLA student Curren Mandon casts his ballot on campus Tuesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

After weeks of campaigning and millions of dollars in advertising, the recall election is nearly over.

How is tonight likely to unfold? And when we will know a firm result?


Here is a timeline to consider:

8 p.m.

Polls are scheduled to close across the state. Then what? County registrars have already processed — but not counted — the roughly 9 million ballots that were cast before today. As soon as polls close, they’ll begin tabulating those ballots.

Around 9 p.m.

Roughly an hour after polls close, most counties expect to start reporting those early results. We don’t yet know how many people voted on election day, but political analysts have been expecting a total of just more than 13 million ballots cast. If so, those early ballots would represent almost 70% of the total turnout. With that big a chunk of the vote expected to be reported soon after polls close, we probably will have a very good sense of how the election is going — except for one caveat.

The early vote almost certainly will lean heavily to the Democratic side. A lot of Republicans, influenced by former President Trump’s attacks on mail voting, said they planned to vote in person on election day. For the recall to be successful, it will require a very large election day vote to overcome the lead that Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to get from the early vote.

Those election day votes will take a few hours to process and count. In Los Angeles County, for example, sheriff’s deputies go to each polling place, retrieve the ballots and take them, sometimes by helicopter, to the registrar’s office in Norwalk to be counted.

Around 11 p.m.

Counties will start reporting election day votes.

Sept. 21

That’s the final day for ballots postmarked by today to arrive at election offices to be counted. So if tonight’s vote is really close, it could be a while before we know the outcome. Polls strongly suggest the vote won’t be that close, but in a few hours those preelection surveys won’t matter.


More reading:
Times Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers offers five things to look for on election night. Among them, Democratic turnout and how many voters actually select a replacement for Newsom.