Frequently Asked Questions

About Candidates and State Ballot Measures

  1. How is a primary election conducted in California?

    A Top-two primary is held for statewide constitutional offices, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly. In a June top-two primary all candidates for an office are listed on the same ballot and anyone can vote for any candidate running for the above-listed offices, regardless of party preference. Only the two candidates who receive the most votes in each contest will move on to the November general election.

    Presidential primary: Qualified political parties in California may hold presidential primaries in one of two ways:

    • Closed presidential primary - only voters indicating a preference for a party may vote for that party's presidential nominee. For the June 7, 2016, Presidential Primary the Republican Party, Green Party, and Peace and Freedom Party have all chosen to hold closed presidential primaries.
    • Modified-closed presidential primary - the party also allows voters who did not state a party preference (“no party preference voters”) to vote for that party's presidential nominee. The Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, and American Independent Party have all chosen to allow no party preference voters to participate in their presidential primaries.
  2. What do "party preference" and "no party preference" mean when listed with candidate names on a ballot? What are the qualified political parties and website abbreviations?

    Voters in California may choose to indicate a preference for a political party when they register to vote.  If a candidate for statewide constitutional office, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, or State Assembly does not have a preference for a qualified political party, the phrase "no party preference" is listed next to the candidate's name.

    Secretary of State website abbreviations for party preference are as follows:

    1. DEM = Democratic Party
    2. REP = Republican Party
    3. AI = American Independent Party
    4. GRN = Green Party
    5. LIB = Libertarian Party
    6. P&F = Peace & Freedom Party
    7. NPP = No Party Preference
  3. Who is running for office?

    The Secretary of State's Certified List of Candidates for Voter-Nominated Offices – Abbreviated List (PDF) includes all candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly who are up for election. The Certified List of Presidential Candidates – Abbreviated List (PDF) lists the candidates running to be their party’s nominee for the presidential general election. County elections officials provide certified lists of candidates for local contests such as mayor and sheriff.

    Information about candidates for President and U.S. Senate is available in the Secretary of State's Official Voter Information Guide.

    Information about candidates for U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly is available through county elections offices.

  4. What statewide ballot measures (also known as propositions) are on the June 7, 2016, Presidential Primary ballot? How did these measures qualify for the ballot?

    Proposition 50 is the only statewide ballot measure on the June 7, 2016, Presidential Primary ballot. It was placed on the ballot by the Legislature and requires a simple majority of the public’s vote to be enacted.

  5. Who writes the arguments for and against ballot measures that are printed in the Secretary of State's Official Voter Information Guide?

    The Secretary of State's office does not take positions on ballot measures and does not write ballot arguments. Arguments for and against ballot measures are provided by proponents and opponents of the ballot measures. According to law, ballot argument language cannot be changed in any way unless a court orders it to be changed.

Back to the Top

About This Election Results Website

  1. Will the unofficial election results change after election night? When will all of the election results be final?

    Yes, election results will change throughout the canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, and other ballots are processed. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it may take up to 30 days (28 days for presidential delegates and 30 days for all other contests) for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters. The frequency of updated results will vary based on the size of each county and the process each local elections office uses to tally and report votes.

    County elections officials must report their final results to the Secretary of State for presidential delegates by July 5, 2016, and all other offices by July 8, 2016. The Secretary of State will compile the results of the election of presidential delegates by  July 9, 2016, and will certify the results of all other offices by July 15, 2016.

  2. What qualifies as a "close contest" for purposes of the Secretary of State's election results website?

    For people interested in watching contests with particularly tight margins, the Secretary of State website includes a "close contests" feature. As election results come in, this page will list all contests in which there is less than a two percent difference between first and second place for presidential candidates or between yes and no votes for ballot measures. This page will also list all top-two primary contests in which there is less than a two percent difference between the second and third place candidates. Election results will change throughout the 30-day canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, and other ballots are tallied.

  3. On election night: Why have some counties not reported any results immediately after the polls close?

    Each of the 58 county elections offices processes ballots differently, and the distances poll workers must travel from polling places to county offices vary greatly. State law requires county elections officials to send their first batch of results to the Secretary of State's office no more than two hours after they begin tallying the votes after polls close on election day. County elections officials continue to report results periodically on election night until all precinct vote totals have been reported. County elections officials will continue to count ballots for up to 30 days (28 days for presidential delegates and 30 days for all other contests) after election day.

  4. On election night: Why do some counties show no precincts have reported, yet some votes have been counted?

    The first election results are typically ballots received before election day. Voters may cast ballots up to 29 days before election day. County elections officials may begin opening vote-by-mail ballot envelopes up to ten business days before election day, but those results cannot be accessed or shared with the public until all polls close on election day.

    Many county elections officials choose to tally and report these early voted ballots before results come in from precincts, which are sometimes far away from county headquarters. Early voted ballots simply appear as raw vote totals because, in this initial stage, the ballots are not attributed to individual precincts.

  5. On election night: Why do some contests show a high percentage of precincts reporting, yet the number of total votes continues to change?

    Some counties will show an entire precinct as having reported even if only one ballot from that precinct has been counted. This is why the website specifically notes the data is from precincts "partially reporting." Once a county submits its final ballot-count report for election night a final election night update (“FENU”) will be noted in the Report Type column on the County Reporting Status page. Election results will change throughout the 30-day canvass period (28 days for presidential delegates and 30 days for all other contests) as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, and other ballots are tallied.

  6. When are vote-by-mail ballots counted?

    Vote-by-mail ballots that are received by county elections offices before election day are typically counted on election day. Many more vote-by-mail ballots are dropped off at polling places or arrive at county elections offices on election day. A vote-by-mail ballot is to be counted if received in the elections office no later than 3 days after the election, and it is postmarked on or before election day. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it takes up to 30 days (28 days for presidential delegates and 30 days for all other contests) for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters. The frequency of updated results will vary based on the size of each county and the process each local elections office uses to tally and report votes.

    All vote-by-mail ballots that county elections officials determine have been cast by eligible voters are counted and included in the official election results, which will be published by the Secretary of State on July 15, 2016.

  7. When are provisional ballots counted?

    All provisional ballots that county elections officials determine have been cast by eligible voters are counted and included in the official election results, which will be published by the Secretary of State on July 15. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it takes up to 30 days (28 days for presidential delegates and 30 days for all other contests) for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters.

Back to the Top