A massive overhaul of how Orange County voters cast ballots will be considered Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, but some Republican leaders concerned about potential voter fraud want any changes postponed. Elections officials here and in other states that have implemented similar changes counter that by saying the upgrades make voting systems more secure. “There’s no better time to make these changes than now,” said Neal Kelley, county Registrar of Voters, who says the new approach would save the county between $10 million and $20 million. The “vote center” system he’s proposing would do away with the approximately 1,000 precinct polling places typically set up in the county for each election. Instead, the county would create new vote centers and distribute mail-in ballots to every registered voter.
Besides mailing those ballots in, voters could drop them off at 93 “military-grade” secure drop boxes beginning a month before the election. They could also drop them off at one of 30 vote centers beginning 10 days before the election or one of 150 vote centers open the four days before an election. Additionally, voters could cast ballots in person at those vote centers in the days leading up to and including Election Day.
The proposal is driven, in part, by voters increasing preference for voting by mail.
Currently, 61 percent of all county voters are permanent mail voters, with the amount growing annually. Also, the number of voters dropping off mail ballots in person has doubled since 2004, according to Kelley’s report. Colorado and Washington already use systems similar to the one proposed by Kelley. The California Legislature last year authorized the use of the system, beginning by offering the option to 14 counties, including Orange.