Elections Operations

The Santa Barbara County Elections Division conducts all Federal, State, County, School District and Special District Elections in the county as well as Municipal Elections for most of the cities in the county. The division also maintains the registration records for all voters in Santa Barbara County which is an ongoing year-round process.

Districts and Precincts

Beginning approximately seven months before the election, the division begins preparation by establishing precinct boundaries around areas that have districts in common. The districts include State Assembly, State Senate, County Supervisorial and County Board of Education as well as local districts including school districts and special districts.

Polling Places and Election Officers (Pollworkers)

Once the precincts have been established, the division begins coordinating with all of the facilities that will be used as polling places for the election. There are typically between 80 and 90 polling places countywide and approximately 800 to 1,000 pollworkers are hired to process voters at the polling places. Please visit the Election Officer Information page if you are interested in working as a pollworker.

polling place table

Candidate Filing

The Candidate Filing period opens 113 days before the election and ends 88 days before the election. During this period, voters interested in running for office can file all of the necessary paperwork with our office. For more information on the candidate filing process, please visit the Candidate Filing page.

Ballot Layout

Once the Candidate Filing period has closed, the ballot layout and proofing period begins and the artwork is sent to the print vendor so they can begin printing the ballots.

Vote by Mail

Any voter can receive and return their ballot by mail. Twenty-nine days before the election, Vote by Mail ballots are mailed to all permanent Vote by Mail voters. During the twenty-nine day period, any poll voter can go to the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria or Lompoc office and request a ballot and any permanent Vote by Mail voter can request a replacement ballot if they lost or spoiled the ballot they received by mail. The drop boxes are also open during this period and voters can drive through and deposit their ballots. Please visit the Vote by Mail page for more information on voting by mail and for the drop box locations.

ballot drive up drop box

Ballot Preparation and Signature Verification

As the ballots are received, they are run through equipment which sorts the ballots down to the supervisorial district, captures an image of the envelope and uses Automatic Signature Recognition to verify the signature against the signature on the voter's registration record. If the signature is not a match, it is then reviewed by staff trained to compare signatures. If there is no signature on the envelope or if the signature does not match, a letter is sent to the voter. Voters have until 8:00 pm on Election Day to resolve any signatures that do not match their voter record and until 8 days after the election if there was no signature on their ballot.

shelves of ballots to prepare

Ballot Counting Before Election Day

Beginning ten business days before the election, the division can begin opening and processing Vote by Mail ballots. The ballots are run through equipment which opens the envelope and the operators extract the ballots. The ballots are then sent to staff who flatten them and get them ready to be run through the tabulation equipment. The tabulation equipment is stored in a secure room and access to the room is only granted to a select number of staff. The equipment is securely connected to a server that compiles the results, but none of the equipment, including the server, is connected to a network or the internet. Although the ballots can be tabulated during this period, the results cannot be viewed or released until the first release of the semi-official results after 8:00 pm on Election Night.

staff at tables getting ready to count ballots

Election Day

On Election Day, all of the polling places including the office locations are open from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm. Once the polls close at 8:00 pm, the ballots are all packed, sealed and transported in dual custody to one of the five Reception Centers located throughout the county. They are then transported with Sheriff's deputy escort to our main County Elections Building in Santa Barbara for processing. All of the poll ballots are processed election night. The first release of the semi-official results are posted shortly after 8:00 pm which include all of the Vote by Mail ballots that were received prior to Election Day. The semi-official results are then updated approximately every two hours Election Night until all of the poll ballots have been tabulated.

After Election Day, the Official Canvass period begins. There is still a lot of processing that needs to be completed before the Final Election Results and the Official Statement of Votes Cast for the election can be certified. It is important to note that every ballot that is cast is processed and all ballots legally cast by an eligible voter are counted.

Official Canvass after Election Day

Listed below are the major components of the official canvass. These components must be performed in a particular order as identified below:

  • 1) Vote by Mail Ballots

    Vote by Mail ballots returned on Election Day to our office or dropped off at polling place locations and the Vote by Mail ballots returned by mail prior to Election Day that have not yet been counted are processed. The Vote by Mail ballots that have been received no later than three days after Election Day and are postmarked on or before Election Day are also processed.
  • 2) Vote/No Vote History

    The Vote/No Vote process begins with reviewing the Rosters where voters have signed their names to vote at polling places and verifying that the box next to the voter's name has been checked for each signer so their record will be captured during the Roster scanning process. The Rosters are then removed from their bindings and scanned. Staff then verifies that the scanners captured each person that has signed so they may be given credit for voting.
  • 3) 1% Manual Tally

    A 1% manual tally of ballots cast is conducted to verify the tabulation equipment's accuracy. On the Thursday following the election at 11:00 a.m. staff will randomly select 1% of the polling place precincts and 1% of the decks counted on central count machines included in the semi-official results. Staff will then do a hand count to confirm that the manual count matches the machine count.
  • 4) Roster Reconciliation

    The reconciliation of the precinct voting Rosters is completed to verify that the number of signatures on the Roster matches the number of ballots tabulated by the computer system.
  • 5) Provisional Ballots

    Provisional ballots are processed by checking the voter registration file to verify the voter's eligibility to cast the ballot, confirming that the signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the voter's signature on their registration record, confirming the voter cast the ballot in the correct precinct, and confirming the voter has not returned a ballot by any other means. Once verified and approved for opening, the ballot is added to the official count.
  • 6) Damaged Ballots

    Damaged ballots that were unable to be processed by the tabulation equipment, which includes torn ballots, will be duplicated by boards of three. Once the duplication is completed the ballots will be counted.
  • 7) Emergency Period – Vote by Mail Ballots

    The emergency Vote by Mail ballots are processed after the provisional ballots are completed. The emergency Vote by Mail ballots were issued after the close of the Vote by Mail period and therefore these voters were not flagged on the Roster or any list provided to the polling place officers. They are verified last to ensure they did not vote by any other means before they are processed and counted. At this time we will also verify an Unsigned Ballot Statements submitted by voters that failed to sign their return envelope when they returned their ballot and process the voter's ballot.
  • 8) Valid Write-In Votes

    Ballots that were pulled during the ballot counting process that have valid write-in votes are counted by manual tally.
  • 9) Certification of the Election

    The certification of the election occurs no later than 30 days following the election and is completed once the tasks above and all other canvass procedures are completed. The County Clerk-Recorder and Assessor/Registrar of Voters will sign the certification documents which are submitted to the Board of Supervisors. Upon certification of the election, the elections official will release the Final Election Results and the Official Statement of Votes Cast for the election.
Statewide Direct Primary Election 2014 Consolidated General Election 2014 Presidential Primary Election 2016 Presidential General Election 2016
Poll Ballots Processed 18,453 36,803 38,157 61,652
Vote by Mail Ballots Processed 54,683 77,303 80,817 120,612
Provisional Ballots Processed 1,295 4,714 7,821 11,174