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Some O.C. ballot boxes shuttered by blazes, officials say

An official Orange County registrar of voters ballot drop box
An official Orange County registrar of voters ballot drop box.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Four ballot drop boxes in Orange County were closed Tuesday morning due to a pair of fires threatening the areas where they’re located and making them unsafe for voters to visit.

All the ballots in the affected boxes “are safe,” O.C. Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said, adding: “They’re unharmed.”

The ballots were retrieved by the registrar under escort by the Sheriff’s Department, according to the office headed by Kelley. So far, the number of ballots rescued have not been counted, he said.

There are 112 boxes still open across the county.

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The wind-driven Silverado and Blue Ridge fires, both burning into their second day, have led to the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents in Irvine, Yorba Linda, Chino Hills and other communities.

The shuttered boxes were in those mandatory evacuation areas, where officials said voters would not be able to safely access them.

Orange County officials installed fire-suppressive ballot boxes to protect from fires. If triggered, a device sprays fire-retardant material inside the box.

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Los Angeles County Clerk Dean C. Logan said last week that the suppressant spray could destroy ballots or make them harder to recover, explaining why L.A. County has not installed them.

According to Kelley, they’ve been tested and appear to serve their protective function.

The spray “doesn’t do a lot of damage to the ballots — and it certainly does a lot less damage than a fire,” he said.

Just over a week ago, a ballot box in Los Angeles County was burned in what authorities say may have been arson. Some “material” from the Baldwin Hills drop box was recovered and transferred to the Los Angeles County registrar to see what could be salvaged, officials said.

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Closed ballot drop boxes in Orange County are:

Ballot Drop Box No. 76
24705 Paseo De Toronto, Yorba Linda

Ballot Drop Box No. 28
5701 Trabuco Road, Irvine

Ballot Drop Box No. 29
1300 Sanctuary, Irvine

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Ballot Drop Box No. 83
18931 Saddleback Ranch Road, Trabuco Canyon

Voters seeking an alternative way to cast their ballot can visit the registrar of voters office. The office is open for voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 1300 South Grand Ave., Building C, in Santa Ana.


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