It's the election that just won't end, at least not anytime soon.
Elections officials across California continue to tally the votes cast on June 5 -- a process now entering its third week and a possible sign of the times as more voters now cast ballots away from the polling place.
On the contest everyone's watching, it's a very tight count; the proposed $1 per pack tobacco tax, Proposition 29, is now losing by slightly more than 17,000 votes out of almost 5 million counted statewide.
"For this election, we're seeing a huge amount of people who voted by mail," says Sacramento County elections official Brad Buyse. "More so than went to the polls."
Buyse and others say many of those ballots didn't arrive by mail, but rather to polling places on Election Day. As a result, almost 249,000 ballots statewide are still waiting to be tallied. The other largest group of uncounted votes are provisional ballots, those that could not be accurately placed by polling place or by voter name on June 5.
The popularity of vote-by-mail (VBM) in California has only risen every election since the state relaxed the rules, now allowing permanent VBM status for any reason.
"We've given voters more convenience, but it's reduced the security in our voting system," says Kim Alexander of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. "So to make up for that, elections officials have to do double duty, to make sure nobody's voting twice."
As for Prop 29, both supporters and opponents continue to closely watch the updated vote results. On Monday morning, Sacramento County elections workers were being observed by two employees of a law firm working for the 'no' on Prop 29 campaign; officials say such observers are not uncommon, and allowed under election rules.
The county with the single largest share of statewide votes, Los Angeles, is where all eyes are focused. The county now holds almost a third of the state's uncounted vote-by-mail ballots.