Flood of absentees may delay election night results

An election that's already considered historic may pass yet another milestone: the first time more Californians cast votes for president by mail than at polling places.

The trend toward voting by mail suits Californians' busy lifestyles, allowing them to work through long, complicated ballots on their own time. But absentee voting could result in delayed results, particularly in tight races, elections experts say.

Californians may know Tuesday whether they helped elect the nation's first African American president or first female vice president. But as county election workers hustle to rip open and verify absentee ballots turned in at the last minute, the outcome of hot-button statewide propositions dealing with abortion and gay marriage, as well as billions of dollars in bonds for hospitals, green energy and schools, could be delayed.

"People want resolution. They don't want to hear that there are a million votes still to be counted," said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California.

The deadline for counties to report pre-election registration is Friday, but preliminary counts already exceed 17 million – higher than the state's previous best of 16.6 million, Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said Tuesday.

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