Tuesday night, Councilmember Rex Richardson proclaimed victory in the mayoral race after coming away with a lead over Councilmember Suzie Price, but it could be weeks before the race is officially called due to the county’s lengthy ballot counting process.

When Richardson made the statement on stage at his election party Tuesday night, he held about a 10-point lead over Price. Overnight, that lead was reduced to a 6.7-point margin.

Richardson issued a statement Wednesday morning saying he was optimistic that as ballots are finished being counted, he would remain on top and was looking forward to being the next mayor.

Price also issued a statement Wednesday saying she was going to spend time with friends and family whiles votes continue to be tallied. She, too, said Tuesday night that she was confident she’d be the next mayor despite Richardson’s early lead.

Richardson’s campaign said his lead will hold up as more votes pour in. How many more is the big unknown.

When Long Beach shifted to having the county administer its elections, it lost the ability to track how many ballots had been cast and how many had been counted. All ballots used to be funneled into City Hall to be counted, but now they’re mixed in with 88 other cities. Voters are allowed to cast their ballots from anywhere in the county.

This has left candidates and campaign advisors largely in the dark because county updates include figures from nearly 90 cities, which explains why some updates from the county didn’t include changes to Long Beach vote counts Tuesday night.

“You don’t know if they’re from Claremont or Santa Clarita,” said Danielle Cendejas, a consultant who worked on Richardson’s campaign.

Cendejas said there’s an expectation that the total voter turnout will continue to grow from the 23% of ballots already returned in Long Beach. Turnout could grow to the low 40% range, which means potentially tens of thousands of ballots more to count.

In the March primary, turnout for the mayoral race was 28%, and is typically higher in the general election.

While Richardson and Price are both Democrats, Cendejas said that because Richardson was endorsed by many high-profile progressive groups like Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party, they are optimistic that late-arriving ballots will trend more toward him as the county issues updates.

“What we saw in the primary was Rex continued to do very well with votes that continued to come in and counted after Election Day,” Cendejas said. “We anticipate that’s going to be the same thing this time.”

Richardson held a 3-point lead on election night in June but that grew to a 7-point lead by the end of the primary certification process.

County election officials aren’t set to issue another update until Friday. After that, they will update figures twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays through the end of the month, or until they’re done counting. Ballots are legally allowed to be counted if they were postmarked on or before election night and arrive before Nov. 15.

The results released by Los Angeles County election officials Wednesday are unofficial and could remain that way until Dec. 5, when the county estimates it will certify this election.

A photo showing an unknown amount of mail-in ballots received by the county was tweeted out Wednesday afternoon and county election officials said they received a “surge” of ballots through the mail on Election Day.

Drawn-out elections will likely be the norm for Long Beach races in the future. Voters appear to have approved two ballot measures that will permanently align the city and LBUSD elections with the state’s cycle. Measures LBC and LBU both have over 70% approval as of Wednesday.

That means in presidential election cycles Long Beach elections will be held in March and November and gubernatorial cycles like this year will be held in June and November. The passage of both measures will move the city’s elections off of its schedule laid out in the city charter, which was April and June in even-numbered years.

The county will continue to administer the city’s elections, which could mean that close races could take several weeks to sort out. It could also make recounts and special elections in the city more expensive going forward. The city’s 5th City Council district race is the closest of any contest held Tuesday night with candidates Megan Kerr and Ian Patton separated by 113 votes as of Wednesday afternoon.

Under the city charter, a race qualifies for an automatic recount, which the city would pay for, if two candidates are separated by less than 50 votes and half a percent at the end of counting votes.

Both candidates cautiously optimistic in razor-thin 5th District City Council race

Long Beach election results: Rex Richardson takes lead in mayoral race

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.