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Local voters cast their Super Tuesday ballots at new vote centers

Sarah Stockstill, 48, an artist who recently moved to Costa Mesa, proudly shows her "I voted" sticker after casting her ballot at the Costa Mesa Senior Center in Tuesday's primary election.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Are you here to vote?”

It was a question being repeated throughout the morning Tuesday in Costa Mesa and elsewhere as people filed into vote centers to cast their ballots in the state’s primary election to determine which candidates will go on to the November general election for state and federal offices. The election also includes some county races and ballot initiatives.

The vote centers and the March primary (moved up from June to join other primaries on Super Tuesday) are among changes rolled out as part of the state Voter’s Choice Act, which was passed in 2016 to allow counties to conduct elections under a new model intended for greater flexibility and voter convenience. All registered voters in Orange County were sent an official mail-in ballot and voter information guide in February.

The ballots could be mailed in or dropped off at any of 110 secured ballot boxes or in person at one of the 188 vote centers across the county. The centers replaced the traditional polling stations that required voters to go to specific precincts to cast their ballots.

Many vote centers have been open since Feb. 22 to not only accept ballots but also accommodate things such as voter registration, ballot replacement and address updates.

“I think it was pretty easy. I just went up. I actually had to change my party. [A registrar] just entered it into the system and then I was able to go and vote and just put it through that scanner and it was really easy,” said Bobbi Velasquez, an administrative assistant at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa who went to the vote center at City Hall.

“Usually there was a line [outside of polling stations], but it’s definitely a lot more efficient and definitely fast,” Velasquez said. “That was only a couple of minutes as opposed to 10 to 15 minutes, which was the typical time.”

Matthew Quinlan, a psychology professor at Coastline College in Fountain Valley, agreed, saying he didn’t feel the process changed in terms of efficiency but that it was convenient to find a vote center and the vote scanner was intuitive and easy to use.

People walk to the vote center at the Costa Mesa Senior Center during Tuesday's primary election.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

At the Costa Mesa Senior Center, voters pulled in to ample parking and hustled to the vote center.

For Sarah Stockstill, having all the resources in one place at the vote center was beneficial. Stockstill, 48, said she recently moved to Costa Mesa from Los Angeles and thought changing her address would automatically change the polling location for her. She had to cast a provisional ballot, which she hadn’t done before. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility that must be resolved before the vote can count.

” Maybe [voting’s] a little more complicated, but showing up here, it worked out great,” Stockstill said. “They were able to let me cast my ballot.”

Katie VanBerckelaer, 43, took her daughter Viola, 7, as she cast her vote. Viola proudly wore an “I voted” sticker on her jacket.

Katie VanBerckelaer, 43, and her daughter Viola, 7, leave the vote center at the Costa Mesa Senior Center on Tuesday after VanBerckelaer cast her ballot.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

VanBerckelaer said she felt the changes to the voting process were more convenient and she liked that people could go to vote centers before Election Day, though she felt she got more paperwork in the mail because of the changes. She said she hoped the changes would help more people participate.

“I think it’s important for people to vote. There’s some people that don’t vote and then they complain about it, and if we want to make changes, then we gotta put our vote in,” VanBerckelaer said. “I think it is important that kids know that we vote, not that we complain about it at home.”

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