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OC Registrar of Voters: Multiple layers of oversight will ensure the accuracy of the 2022 midterm election

As of Monday, the Registrar had received more than 245,000 mail-in ballots.
As of Monday, the Registrar had received more than 245,000 mail-in ballots, and over 3,440 Orange County residents had turned theirs in at one of the 37 voting centers that were up and running.
(Raul Roa)

Multiple layers of security ensure that all votes cast by Orange County residents in the upcoming Nov. 8 election will not be tampered with, election officials said during a tour of the Registrar’s office Tuesday.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Bob Page has invited any person concerned about the accuracy of the count to observe how it is conducted at his offices in Santa Ana, 1300 S. Grand Ave. Screens displaying feeds of the tally being performed have been installed there for those who wish to come in and watch the process.

For the record:

1:08 p.m. Nov. 3, 2022An earlier version of this story misstated the role of Sheriff’s deputies in ballot security. It has been updated to reflect that deputies are present at voting centers and accompany the delivery of USB drives from ballot scanners to the Registrar of Voters on election night.

He added that members of the public do have a right to monitor the physical collection of ballots.

“Our ballot collection teams have reported seeing observers at some drop boxes when they pick up ballots,” Page wrote in an email Wednesday. “But we have not received any reports of voter intimidation. We support the right of voters to safely deposit their ballot in a drop box. If we receive any reports of intimidation, we will refer the complaint to the district attorney for investigation.”

There are 121 ballot drop boxes in Orange County, each made of thick steel and bolted to the ground, Page said. Votes are picked up by two-person teams who take randomized routes for their protection. They take a photo of the inside of the ballot box and place the votes they have collected in a sealed container.

Machines open and process the ballots that arrive from a drop box, mail or a voting center. Those record an image of a barcode and the voter’s signature.

The equipment used in this process is not connected to the internet and cannot be accessed remotely, which means they should not be vulnerable to hacking. Numerous tests and audits are conducted before and after an election to ensure their accuracy. Page noted that no irregularities were found after the 2020 election.

Officials then manually examine the signature on each ballot to make sure it is the one on file for that person. If they find one that doesn’t appear to be a match, they will contact the voter to address the inconsistency.

Altogether, these protocols safeguard against tampering, “vote flipping,” repeat voting and other potential issues, Page said.

As of Monday, the Registrar had received more than 245,000 mail-in ballots, and over 3,440 Orange County residents had turned theirs in at one of the 37 voting centers that were up and running, Page said. Another 144 in-person voting locations will be opened on Saturday. Those close at 8 p.m. each night, through Nov. 8. Orange County has 1.8 million registered voters.

Sheriff’s deputies are stationed at 10 ballot collection centers on nights vote centers are open and at the building on Grand as ballots are received from the field. And on election night, they escort the teams who deliver USB drives from ballot scanners to the Registrar of Voters.

While no harassment of ballot collectors or voters has been documented in Orange County during the lead-up to this November’s election, in Phoenix, armed observers associated with the conservative group Clean Elections USA have been following voters and photographing or filming at ballot drop boxes, raising allegations of voter intimidation.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered them to stay out of the 75-foot zone around places where votes are collected, in which campaigning activities are prohibited by Arizona law. They were also barred from carrying weapons near drop boxes and voting centers.

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