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On or before the March 5 primary, 104 voters in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties mailed their ballots.

Legally, those ballots should have been counted, barring a problem like a ballot envelope signature not matching what’s on file.

But they weren’t tallied because registrars of voters in these counties received the ballots after March 12 — the final day that on-time mail-in ballots could be accepted.

While Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties processed more than 3 million primary votes, ballots postmarked on time but arriving too late — however few — pose a challenge for California elections that rely heavily on ballots mailed to every registered voter.

“While this amount may not make any difference in the election results, it certainly makes a difference to the integrity of the process,” Robert Tyler of the Murrieta-based law firm Advocates For Faith & Freedom said via email.

In a Thursday, April 4, letter, Tyler demanded that Riverside County halt certification of its primary results on the belief that 5,000 ballots remained to be counted. Those ballots weren’t valid because they were postmarked after Election Day, according to Riverside County Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco.

Chapman University political science professor Fred Smoller said: “All election procedures have their shortcomings. I hope this one gets fixed prior to the next election.”

Hoping to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, California starting in 2020 required all registered voters, whether or not they voted by mail, to get a mail-in ballot to use if they so choose.

By law, ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received up to seven days after the election must be counted. It’s one reason why California election results take days, if not weeks, to be finalized.

Most Californians vote by mail, with 88% mailing in their ballots for the 2022 general election, according to the secretary of state.

According to Riverside County, 31 mail-in ballots postmarked on time arrived eight days after the election or later.

In Orange County, 70 postmarked-on-time ballots arrived too late to be counted, with 61 arriving March 13, three arriving March 14 and six arriving March 15, according to that county’s registrar.

In San Bernardino County, three ballots arrived between March 13 and March 15 that were postmarked on Election Day, according to elections office spokesperson Melissa Eickman. Information for similar ballots in Los Angeles County was not available as of Monday afternoon, April 8.

Officials in Orange and Riverside counties said they weren’t sure why the ballots arrived late.

“We can only process ballots as they arrive,” Riverside County registrar spokesperson Elizabeth Florer said via a text message. “We cannot speculate as to why a ballot may take longer to arrive in our office.”

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Duke Gonzales did not provide an explanation for why the ballots arrived late.

In an emailed statement, he said the service “is committed to the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail” and is “committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system.”

Gonzales also shared election mail reports from 2020 and 2022. According to those reports, 99.89% of 2020 ballots and 99.93% of 2022 ballots nationwide were delivered within seven days.

“We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling and delivery of all Election Mail, including ballots,” Gonzales said.

California allows voters to track their ballots online to ensure they are received and counted and receive texts or emails when their ballot status changes. Voters can sign up for the service at

Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who is part of an ad hoc committee studying election issues in her county, said via email that she was concerned about the late-arriving ballots.

“I plan to ask the registrar of voters staff to work with the U.S. Postal Service to find solutions so this does not happen in future elections,” Spiegel said via email.

Her colleague, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, said via email that the county “is also at the mercy of the Postal Service to deliver the ballots within the legal (counting) window.”

“As I recall, dealing with late arriving or past due mail-in ballots is nothing new,” Jeffries said. “It’s just that everything tied to elections is now under a microscope to make sure that election laws are being adhered to.”

He added he “can’t help but wonder” why the 31 voters in his county whose ballots arrived too late to be counted “didn’t make it on time. That’s something that maybe only the Postal Service can offer some insight on.”

“The takeaway from this might be don’t wait until the last day to mail your ballot,” Jeffries said. “Stay ahead of your government!”

Staff Writer Hanna Kang contributed to this report.