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Voting Begins Today for Those Who Try New Kiosks in 6 Malls

Times Staff Writer

After they’ve slurped down an Orange Julius or riffled through a sales rack at Nordstrom, Orange County residents will soon be able to tackle something new at the neighborhood mall. They’ll be able to vote.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters is installing voting kiosks at six shopping malls, where registered voters will be able to cast ballots electronically -- shopping bag or smoothie in hand.

Voting in the primary election starts today at malls in Brea, Buena Park, Irvine, Santa Ana, Mission Viejo and Westminster -- one month before traditional voters cast ballots at their neighborhood polling places.

The idea, says Steve Rodermund, Orange County registrar of voters, is to increase voter turnout by bringing the polling place to the voters.

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“We want to put [the kiosks] out where the people are. It gives the people of Orange County more opportunities to be part of the election process,” Rodermund said.

Bringing voting places to shopping malls might increase voter participation, said Mark Petracca, a political science professor at UC Irvine.

“This could be a way to appeal to younger people to vote,” Petracca said. “Let’s face it, younger people spend a lot of time at the malls.”

Then again, it may simply become a new option for voters who would have cast their ballots anyway, he said.

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“My hunch is this is going to give people who are already going to vote the opportunity to vote in a mall. It becomes a cheap thrill ride and allows them to say, ‘I cast my vote for president at the Irvine Spectrum,’ ” Petracca said.

Election workers will check voters’ signatures to make sure they match signatures on registration forms, Rodermund said. He said the voting process will be secure and that election officials will be able to prevent voters from casting ballots at the mall and then trying again on election day. Results will be announced along with absentee balloting totals when the polls close on election day.

When the malls close, workers will lock up the equipment before they go home. Votes will be periodically transferred to the registrar’s office during the voting day.

“We’re comfortable there’s a good level of security there. If somebody did break in, they’d be on video camera. The likelihood of someone doing that is very small,” Rodermund said. “And if someone stole one of the units, we’d immediately log it out of the system, so it wouldn’t matter what they did with it.”

The early voting will be available from today through Feb. 22 at the six malls and also at city halls in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana and the Registrar of Voters office.

Rodermund said that if the mall program is successful, he’ll expand it for the November election.

“We wanted to make sure that when we did this that we put it into areas that were high-traffic areas that would cater to a broad spectrum of potential voters in Orange County,” he said.

Voters at the malls and in polling places will be using the county’s new electronic voting machines for the first time. The machines, manufactured by Texas-based Hart Intercivic, are not the touch-screen devices that some neighboring counties will be using. Instead, Orange County voters will use an electronic pad about the size of a sheet of legal paper, turn a knob to highlight their candidate and then push a button to vote.

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Early voting at public places has become popular throughout the country. During the October election, 42,000 Los Angeles County voters cast ballots early, using touch-screen computers at libraries and other government buildings, said Conny B. McCormack, Los Angeles County registrar-recorder. Riverside County has also set up early voting stations at malls.

Los Angeles County voters will again be able to vote early before the primary election, McCormack said. Polling places will be open at 16 public places, including the Braille Institute and several libraries. The early voting will be available from Feb. 18 through Feb. 27. A list of the polling locations and hours is available on the registrar’s website, regrec.co.la.ca.us.

“We offer our busy voters three choices: Vote by mail, go early and vote touch-screen, or they can go on election day,” McCormack said. “It eliminated the validity of the excuses that they couldn’t find enough time to vote.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Shop and vote

Today through Feb. 22, registered voters may cast an early ballot in the March primary election at the malls listed:

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Brea Mall

Orange Fwy. and Imperial Hwy.

Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Buena Park Mall

La Palma and Stanton avenues

Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Irvine Spectrum

71 Fortune Drive

To be announced

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MainPlace/Santa Ana

2800 N. Main Street

Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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The Shops at Mission Viejo

I-5 and Crown Valley Parkway

Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Westminster Mall

Golden West St. and Bolsa Ave.

Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Source: Orange County Registrar of Voters


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