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Election 2020: Is California really still counting votes? Yep. GOP just flipped another congressional seat.

Most Californians may have moved on from the stress and uncertainty of the 2020 election, but the work of tallying votes and certifying results is still ongoing in the Golden State.

In fact, on Friday the Associated Press just called an extremely tight race for a Central Valley congressional seat that Republican David Valadao won back after being defeated two years ago by Democrat TJ Cox to represent District 21 in the U.S. House — one of at least three House seats the GOP reclaimed in California this year.

Here are a few key deadlines and a look at other close races where there isn’t yet a key winner.

Dec. 1 — Counties must report the final results of the presidential contest to the California Secretary of State.

Dec. 4 — Counties must report the final results of all other state and federal races to the California Secretary of State.

Dec. 11 — The Secretary of State will certify the results.

Dec. 14 — The Electoral College convenes to formally choose the next president.

So counties can still count ballots? What’s left? 

Yes, ballots had to be cast or in the mail by Nov. 3, but counties are continuing to count and verify what’s left. In some cases, that means reaching out to voters whose signatures didn’t match what the county had on file to verify it’s really them voting. In other cases, it means verifying the eligibility and residency of voters who registered the day of the election.

As of Wednesday, the state estimated there were about 135,000 ballots left to process — a tiny fraction of the more than 17.7 million votes cast.

What’s already been decided?

In many cases, officials can determine the fate of a candidate or ballot measure before every vote is counted because the winner has built up an insurmountable lead. That’s true with the presidential race, and in California there was never any doubt about who would win. By Friday morning, the state had tallied more than a record 11 million votes for President-elect Joe Biden (63.5%) and more than 5.9 million for outgoing President Donald Trump (34.3%). Despite the drubbing, Trump recorded over 400,000 more than any Republican presidential candidate in California ever — a result of this year’s record voter turnout.

All of the statewide ballot measures have also been decided. Californians backed five of 12 measures, including:

  • Prop 14 — more money for stem cell research
  • Prop 17 — restoring voting rights to people released from prison
  • Prop 19 — making some changes to property tax rules, including for people affected by wildfires
  • Prop 22 — allowing app-based companies like Uber to classify drivers as independent contractors
  • Prop 24 — strengthening consumer privacy laws

Voters rejected seven measures, including:

  • Prop 15 — increasing commercial property taxes
  • Prop 16 — restoring affirmative action
  • Prop 18 — allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections
  • Prop 20 — restricting parole for some offenses
  • Prop 21 — making it easier for cities and counties to pass rent control
  • Prop 23 — tightening requirements for kidney dialysis clinics
  • Prop 25 — eliminating cash bail

Most other local and statewide races have also been decided, with results posted online by each county. Dave Cortese beat Ann Ravel in a closely watched race to represent the South Bay in the state Senate. In the East Bay, the activist behind Moms 4 Housing, Carroll Fife, won a seat on the Oakland City Council. In the Bay Area, longtime members of the U.S. House of Representatives — including Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier, Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier — hung onto their seats.

Which races are close? 

As of Friday, the District 25 congressional seat just north of Los Angeles was too tight to call. Republican incumbent Mike Garcia was beating Democratic challenger Christy Smith by just a few hundred votes — 169,375 to 168,970. It’s not the first time the pair have faced off. After Rep. Katie Hill, a Democrat who won in 2018, resigned amid reports of an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer, Garcia beat out Smith in a tight special election that ultimately ended in a runoff.

In the same area, Republican incumbent Scott Wilk held a slight lead — roughly 6,000 votes — over Democrat Kipp Mueller in the race to represent District 21 in the state Senate. And in Orange County, Democratic incumbent Cottie Petrie-Norris held a roughly 2,000 vote lead over Republican Diane Dixon to represent District 74 in the state Assembly.

Are Republicans making gains after the blue wave of 2018? 

Yes. In 2018, Democrats successfully flipped seven Republican seats in the House. At least three of those Democrats — Katie Porter, Mike Levin and Josh Harder — won reelection in 2020. But at least three — Cox, Harley Rouda and Gil Cisneros — lost to Republicans Valadao, Michelle Steel and Young Kim in 2020. And Garcia seems likely to hold onto his seat, meaning four of the seats that flipped blue in 2018 would revert to red.

The campaigns have been bitter in some cases, and expensive. According to Open Secrets, which tracks campaign spending, Cox raised more than $4.7 million while Valadao raised more than $3.7 million, surpassing their 2018 totals. Opponents of Cox poured more than $8 million into beating him, while opponents of Valadao spent more than $7 million against him.

Rouda and Steel both raised north of $5 million, although Rouda didn’t come close to raising the nearly $8 million he picked up in 2018 to pick off longtime Republican Rep, Dana Rohrabacher.

Cisneros was also way off his 2018 fundraising number. Two years ago, he raised more than $12 million to defeat Kim, who raised less than $3 million. In 2020, Kim grew her fundraising to $5.3 million while Cisneros’s fell to $3.8 million.

Garcia also raised more than Smith, roughly $8.3 million compared to her $5.1 million.

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