Election season in Orange County is in full swing, as 1.8M ballots go out by mail Monday
With Election Day just one month away, the Orange County Registrar of Voters Santa Ana office has been a hotbed of activity, as staff get ready to mail off more than 1.8 million voting ballots by a Monday deadline.
Employees Wednesday could be seen operating printing presses that discharged giant reams of paper ballots that would be rolled into spools and then cut, folded and inserted into orange and white mailing envelopes.
It’s one enormous step in ensuring the process — which, thanks to recent state laws, allows for more mail-in ballots and in-person voting ahead of a Nov. 8 Election Day — goes smoothly, Registrar of Voters Bob Page said in a news conference Tuesday.
“Last week, we did start mailing our county voter information guides between Thursday and Saturday,” he said. “Mail ballots will go out to all actively registered voters who don’t require a military or overseas ballot.”
Voting by mail kicks off on Oct. 10 and already registered voters have until Oct. 24 to update their registration information, if needed. One-fifth of the county’s voting centers, approximately, 37 locations, will accept ballots starting Oct. 29, during business hours, while the remainder of the 181 sites will open on Nov. 5, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In the two weeks leading up to Election Day, citizens may register to vote at the Registrar’s office, at any open vote centers or request a provisional ballot online for in-person pick up.
Because of that, the number of registered voters in Orange County is always fluctuating — as of Thursday, officials had counted 1,815,374 residents, a 16.5% increase from the 1,558,988 registered voters clocked during the last midterm election in 2018.
Page said although an increase in the number of registered voters may result in lower turnout percentages, county voting trends have been increasing steadily.
“While the percentage is lower, for this last election there were about 1,000 more voters who cast ballots in the 2022 primary than did in the 2018 primary,” he said.
Aside from registering, there are numerous ways for voters to engage in this election cycle, from signing up to track the status of individual ballots by email or text message (ocvote.org/track) to observing a calendar of election activities in person or via livestream (ocvote.org/observe).
“We’re seeing a lot of interest,” Page said of observation opportunities. “I’m expecting the interest in this election to be a little higher than it was in the (June) primary, especially from candidates and campaigns.”
Page laid out the numerous internal processes, technological advancements and physical security measures that will be employed to ensure the integrity of ballot collection, transportation and counting.
Each of the county’s 121 ballot drop boxes, for example, are bolted into concrete and contain unique keys. Staff who collect ballots must first photograph a box’s contents and be cleared to move onto the next location. Those who transport ballots are assigned randomized routes and tracked using GPS.
Voting system software monitors rosters on electronic poll books to guarantee individuals vote only once, given all the different means available to them.
“When somebody checks in at a vote center, we are able to see in real time whether we already received a mail ballot from them,” Page said Tuesday. “And once they check in, that information is being provided, so if a mail ballot does come in from that voter (afterward), it is set aside and not counted.”
This election cycle in Orange County features 186 candidates running for 73 city offices and 63 school and special district seats. With 20 local measures and seven statewide propositions, there will be a lot to convey when the Registrar of Voters begins reporting counts around 8:05 p.m. Nov. 8.
After the initial report, which will mostly include earlier in-person and mail ballots, officials will release a second count at around 9:30 p.m. and then provide 30-minute updates until all vote center ballots have been counted.
Following Election Day, the Registrar of Voters will release weekday afternoon reports until every vote has been accounted for.
“We’re very committed to make sure people have up-to-date information about the latest ballots we’ve counted,” Page said.
For more, visit ocvote.org. For voting center locations and dates and hours of operation, visit ocvote.org/elections/2022-general-election/vote-center-locations.
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