AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Two weeks after Donald Trump won the presidency, Hillary Clinton's lead in the popular vote is roughly 1.75 million and counting. That margin is expected to grow even more in the coming weeks mostly thanks to California, where there's still more than 2 million uncounted ballots. Ben Adler of Capital Public Radio tells us why.
BEN ADLER, BYLINE: For one thing, blame coffee, says Sacramento County Assistant Registrar of Voters Alice Jarboe.
ALICE JARBOE: Coffee stains looks just like an oval mark.
ADLER: It seems Californians like to fill out their vote by mail ballots over breakfast.
JARBOE: So we have to remove all those coffee stains, jam and jelly. Yes, we do find those on the ballot. Those gum up our vote counting machines, so we will remake those ballots.
ADLER: And remaking a ballot isn't quick. Two election workers pair up to copy the votes from the damaged ballot onto an unmarked duplicate. For example, the state ballot measures...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Sixty-five, yes; 66, yes; 67, no...
ADLER: Fourteen million people will have voted in California once all the ballots are processed, and Clinton won here by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. As voting by mail has surged, so too is the time it takes counties to count ballots. Plus there are provisional ballots which take even longer to process because it's often hard to verify if voter's eligibility. California provisional ballot laws are much more permissive than in other states.
PAUL MITCHELL: These expansions end up slowing down the vote counting process.
ADLER: That's Paul Mitchell, one of California's top voting data analysts.
MITCHELL: But to trade off, we're going to get our votes counted quicker and disenfranchise people on the front end - I don't think is the right tradeoff.
ADLER: California counties have two more weeks to certify their final ballot counts. Some other large states like Florida and Virginia have already done so. Mitchell says California's slow work is skewing Americans' perceptions of the election results.
MITCHELL: The presidential race was a much larger popular vote win for Hillary Clinton than was seen on Election Day or even the couple days after the election. And that's only going to expand.
ADLER: In fact, Mitchell estimates Clinton could end up winning nationally by 2 and a half million votes, the largest margin ever for an Electoral College loser. For NPR News, I'm Ben Adler in Sacramento.
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