Twenty-four days after the election, voters in Rancho Cordova still don't know who their fifth City Council member will be.
So what's taking so long?
Sacramento election officials, like officials in many counties across the state, are slogging through a record number of provisional ballots.
Voters receive provisional ballots when their registration is in question. Either they showed up at the wrong polling place so their names aren't on the voting rosters, or they didn't register in time, or some piece of information is missing from their registration cards date of birth or birthplace, for example.
Once missing information is confirmed and the voter validated, their provisional ballot is counted. Historically, about 85 percent of provisional ballots are counted, but verification takes time.
This was a banner election for provisional ballots. About 31,000 were cast in Sacramento County, compared to just 4,666 during the June primary and 21,618 in November 2008.
New online voter registration made it easier for voters to sign up, and many did so close to the deadline, 15 days before Election Day. Counties may not have had enough time to get those late registrants on the voter rosters at polling stations. Also, once-a-decade reapportionment meant voting boundaries and polling places changed for many voters.
When California implements Election Day registration, the glut of provisional ballots may evaporate. Gov. Jerry Brown signed an Election Day registration bill into law in September, but it cannot be implemented until Cal-Vote, the state's online voter database and verification system, is operating. That's not expected to happen before 2015 and some doubt it will be ready even then.
Meanwhile, vote counting continues, with results in question. In Rancho Cordova, there were three contested council seats. Mayor David Sander and veteran council member Robert McGarvey easily won re-election.
But as of the latest public count, the two top vote-getters for the remaining open seat, Brian Danzl and Donald Terry, stood just 26 votes apart with several thousand provisional votes outstanding in Sacramento County.
Sacramento County registrar Jill LaVine said it may be late today or Monday before officials declare a winner. So our advice to voters is to be patient. As Sacramento registrar LaVine says, "It's not over until the last vote is counted."