Boulder County Elections gets many questions in the immediate hours and days after the polls close about how many ballots are left to be counted. We hope to shed some light on what happens on election night and beyond on this page and to provide you with the resources you need to figure out how many are left to be counted.
Ballot Processing Election Night & Beyond
Background: An automatic recount is triggered when the difference between the highest number of votes cast in an election contest and the next highest number of votes cast is less than or equal to one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the highest number of votes cast. The final unofficial results showed a vote difference of 68 votes out of 55,672 total ballots counted. Candidate Ashley Stolzmann had 27,870 votes to Eliana Shively’s vote total of 27,802. The difference here is 0.24% (68 out of 27,870).
Process: After the closeness of the race was determined, Boulder County Elections provided the following Primary Election Recount Guide to the candidates and Democratic Party Chair. Neither the party nor the losing candidate have requested a full rescan of the ballots, so the recount will consist of re-adjudicating any Democratic primary ballots that were adjudicated during the course of the primary*. Ballot adjudication occurs when a voter changes their mind on a contest (or makes a mistake) and/or has conflicting markings on their ballot on a particular contest. Ballot adjudication is done by a bipartisan team of election judges using Secretary of State guidelines on how to interpret the voter’s intentions.
Timing: Currently, the recount is scheduled to begin on Monday, July 25. We expect the process to take only one day but will continue into Tuesday if needed. Start time has yet to be determined. The county is required to complete the recount no later than August 2.
*Note: Boulder County Elections conducted its Risk-Limiting Audit on Tuesday, July 12 and no discrepancies were found. See this press release to learn about the post-election audit.
Ballot Processing on Election Night & Beyond
Unofficial results will be posted on the following days/times (except for the first posting, times are approximate):
Election Night – Tuesday, June 28:
- 7 p.m.
- 8:30 p.m.
- 12:30 a.m. (Wednesday)
Wednesday, June 29
- 6 p.m.
- There may be an earlier posting if a contest is extremely close.
Thursday, June 30
- 6 p.m.
- Additional postings on Friday if needed
Thursday, July 7
- End of Day
Why not more results postings?
Pulling results from our Voting System means almost all activity must pause while we tabulate results. Fewer postings means we can process faster, especially on election night.
To calculate how many ballots are left to count, you can compare our Ballots Returned data* to our Ballots Counted (results) data. The difference between how many ballots have been returned and how many have already been counted provides an estimate* of how many are left to be counted.
*The Ballots Returned data is reliant on Secretary of State data pushes, which vary. Thus, on Election Night, ballot returns data has a several hour lag. Additionally, ballot returns include every ballot received, thus that figure will always be higher than what we ultimately count (e.g., not all voters cure their ballot, but their ballot will still be included in the returns data).
By law, there is an 8-day period after the election during which some ballots can still be received/counted. These include:
- Ballots received by 7 p.m. on election night that have not finished the ballot processing steps. See this ballot processing infographic for details or watch our ballot processing tour video to understand all the steps a ballot takes from receipt to counted. We can only process so many ballots a day, and when we receive many on election day, particularly in the final hours, ballot processing typically takes until Thursday or later to complete.
- Military and Overseas (UOCAVA) mail ballots – These ballots legally have until end of day on the 8th day to arrive. Historically, less than 5% of UOCAVA mail ballots are received after Election Day.
- Voters who turned in their ballots by 7 p.m. on Election Day but need to cure (i.e. resolve) an issue with their ballot envelope (e.g., signature discrepancies, missing signatures/ID). Voters who need to cure an issue with their ballot envelope must respond with the appropriate affidavit to our office by end of business on the 8th day or via email or by using text2cure by 11:59 p.m. that day.
- Ballots returned to another Colorado county clerk’s office or collected by Denver Elections from USPS at 7 p.m. – If a voter returned their ballot by 7 p.m. on Election Day to another county clerk in Colorado, the ballot is either given to us at our Wednesday county ballot exchange at Denver Elections* or is sent to us (typically via Fed Ex or similar). Of this category, we immediately process ballots received from the county exchange to include in the Wednesday or Thursday unofficial results postings, but ballots received after this immediate period are held for the 9th day to process.
- Ballots held to preserve voter anonymity – We reserve 3 ballots per precinct per district style to help preserve the anonymity for the potential cured or mail UOCAVA ballots that come in within the 8-day window.
- Manual Process ballots – Ballots that typically come in during the last 24 hours and had an issue that prevents them from immediately being processed (e.g., damaged envelope so it can’t go through the mail sorter; dirty or food-stained so it can’t go through the scanners; poorly marked so election judges need to review for voter intent). There are typically at least 500 or more of these ballots.
*At 7 p.m. on election night, Denver Election officials physically receive (on behalf of all county clerks) any Colorado mail ballot still at the main Denver USPS Mail Processing Center. These ballots are then provided to counties at the ballot exchange on Wednesday morning (or sent to counties that cannot attend, e.g. Western Slope counties). At this same exchange, attending counties that have received ballots from other counties in their drop boxes can exchange ballots.
Eligible ballots received during the 8-day window after the election are processed on the 9th day – Thursday, July 7. We will update unofficial election results by the evening of July 7. Typically, the results will not change after this date.
After every election, we validate election outcomes through the Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA), a statistically-based audit that uses a sample of randomly selected physical ballots and compares the votes on the ballot to the way the scanner read those ballots at the time of scanning. For more details about the audit, please see the Secretary of State’s Audit Center.
The RLA is open to members of the public and will be conducted on July 12 for the primary election. Details on how to RSVP will be posted later this week.
Certification of election results typically occurs during the canvass board meeting. The Canvass Board is comprised of the County Clerk or her designee along with a bipartisan team – one Republican and one Democratic representative (appointed by the local party chairs). During the meeting, staff presents data in great detail on the election results including ballots received and ballots counted, including mail ballots vs. in person. This data is also summarized in the Reconciliation Report. Certification signals that the election results are complete, accurate, and final. This meeting is open to the public and details on how to RSVP will be posted later this week.