You’ve probably heard about the long lines at early voting locations in Florida, and voting machine problems in West Virginia. You may be wondering though; what about Orange County? Does this foretell problems like we experienced in 2006? Two years ago we had problems with our electronic voting equipment, not enough paper ballots, and two hour long lines at some precincts.
I asked the Registrar of Voter’s spokesperson Brett Rowley about how things have changed since November 2006, and what we should expect.
“For this election we have run a Vote-by-Mail campaign that has increased our percentage of Vote-by-Mail voters. Requests have increased for Vote-by-Mail voters by at least 75% since â€˜04. That means fewer voters in line at the polls,” Rowley explained.
“The inside front cover of the Sample Ballot advertises that there will be lines and voting by mail is an option. We have advertised, through the use of countertop Vote-by-Mail applications, at nearly 200 locations throughout Orange County. Those locations include all DMV’s, all United States Post offices, all Wells Fargo branches and all 24 Hour Fitness centers in Orange County, UCI and Cal State Fullerton,” said Rowley. “To accommodate the increase in demand we purchased new equipment to deal with the automated process of handling Vote-by-Mail ballots.”
The County of Orange is approaching 45% of registered voters requesting Vote-by-Mail ballots for the Presidential Election. Vote-by-mail votes received prior to Election Day are the first results reported on Election Night. The highest percentage of votes expected for the November election will be from Vote-by-Mail voters.
Voters that miss the deadline and whose situation or condition prevents them from going to the polls on Election Day may take advantage of Emergency Voting. The voter must vote at the Registrar of Voters office located at 1300 South Grand Avenue in Santa Ana . Voters may send an authorized representative with a signed application to pick up and return an emergency ballot for them.
For more information please call (714) 567-7600 (and push “0″) or visit their website at: www.ocvote.com/mail
In regard to the problems with the electronic voting machinesÂ we previously experienced Rowley told me; “It is not a matter of whether a voting system is out of commission. It is a matter of how we respond to the issue. We will have about 400 people on Election Day that are dedicated to providing assistance to polling places. We have a Technical Support Phone Bank, Coordinators assigned to about four polling places a piece, Rapid Deployment Teams, an â€˜A-Team’ of back up poll workers etc.”
On the matter of paper ballots Rowley said; “There will be so much paper in the polling place (paper ballots) that if you laid it down piece by piece it would reach from here to Utah.” (800,000 paper ballots will be deployed versus 25,000 two years ago)
“The top 100 high turnout polling places have been identified. The Inspectors for those locations received a training manual and DVD specific to new procedures developed through the time studies,” Rowley said. “We are also conducting training sessions for them specific to these new procedures.”
Voting system allocation is based on the number of voters assigned to a precinct and the historical turnout of those voters. The Registrar has purchased an additional 500 voting systems and had 100 demonstration units converted so that they can put more systems out countywide. As our conversation wrapped up Rowley added; “We watched Hillary Clinton say a couple of nights ago that there will be lines, don’t complain, just get out and vote early. We totally agree. I am sure that you can see that we have looked at it (previous challenges) and we took steps to address it.”
On Friday, I received a release from the Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley reminding people that his office has been conducting Early Voting at multiple locations for the November 4, 2008 Presidential Election. The last day to take advantage of this flexible voting option is October 28th, 2008 (times vary by location).
“Thousands of voters have flocked to the Early Voting sites in the past week”, said Kelley. “We anticipate thousands more will avoid the expected lines on Election Day and vote early before the deadline”, he continued.
For a complete list of Early Voting locations please visit the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ website at: www.ocvote.com/early