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Orange County Is Already Seeing Historic Voter Turnout For Election 2020

Drive-through ballot drop-off and voting underway at the Orange County Registrar's Office on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Additional reporting by Jill Replogle and Susanne Whatley.

It's the last day to cast your ballot for the great election of 2020. Even as polls opened this morning, Southern California was already seeing massive voter turnout.

"It's historic," said Neal Kelley, the Registrar of Voters for Orange County. "We have just passed the total turnout for the 2008 presidential general election. But if you look at 2016, we have hit the total number of ballots cast in that election as well. And then just recently, in 2012, we hit that number last night also. So far, [we are seeing] historic numbers going back to '08."

Analysts have predicted massive voter turnout this year. So far, they've been right.

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Orange County is the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States, and other counties seem likely to see the same high turnout numbers.

"I think we're ready for that," Kelley said.

As of Tuesday evening, turnout in the county was hovering at about 75%, Kelley said, adding "of course that's going to continue to grow as we continue to process ballots post election."

Given the pandemic, safety and convenience are key to a smooth election process. One way O.C. election officials are proving that is through a drive-thru voting site at the Honda Center. Kelley said more than 1,000 voters had taken advantage of that service today.

"I just came from there a few minutes ago, and it's busy tonight," he said. "It's a great option for voters."


In an interview with KPCC's Nick Roman this evening, Kelley confirmed that his office, along with the Orange County District Attorney's Office, was investigating an unsactioned site reportedly collecting ballots in the city of Westminster. Kelley did not provide much detail this early into the probe, but had this to say:

"... reports came in that it appeared to be a voting assistance center or a vote center, but not something that was run by my office for the county. And that was the concern among the community. And certainly that's why we jumped on it."

Kimberly Edds, a spokesperson for the O.C. District Attorney’s office, said they had immediately dispatched an investigator earlier in the day when they got complaints about the site, including that they were throwing away ballots.

The investigation is ongoing, but Edds said their initial determination regarding ballots being thrown away is that they were just discarding the outside envelope in which the ballot gets sent in the mail.

She said they’re still investigating, but also noted it’s pretty common for people who are not English speakers and the elderly to seek help filling out their ballots, and that that is within the law.

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At this point, “there is no indication that ballots were discarded or destroyed," Edds said.

She also said people with any concerns about their ballots or votes should call their election hotline: 714-501-4593.

At our Voter Game Plan you can find:


Trinh Luu (left) from Tustin and her sister, Anh Luu (right) from Stanton, arrived at the Orange County Registrar’s office this morning at 6:30 a.m. They came to vote in person because they don’t trust voting by mail. They were the 3rd and 4th people in line. (Jill Replogle/LAist)

Anh Luu, from Stanton, and her sister Trinh Luu, from Tustin, were the third and fourth people in line at the Orange County Registrar's office this morning. They're early birds who arrived at 6:30 a.m. and said they had a smooth voting experience.

The Luu sisters wanted to vote in person because they think it's more secure than voting by mail. Anh mentioned she had heard stories on the news about ballots being tossed out.

"How can we trust the system? How can we trust even the postman anymore? So vote in person is the more secure way to do it and makes your vote count," Anh said.


Speaking to Susanne Whatley, who hosts our newsroom's Morning Edition show on the radio at 89.3 KPCC, Kelley said only seven of Orange County's 160 locations had a 20-minute or more wait this Tuesday morning.

"The good thing about we have full voting operating for four days before election day and that gives us a chance to iron out some of those kinks early on. So I think we're going to have a good day today," Kelley said.

Despite a few minor snafus — one Orange County voting site experienced some scanning issues this morning, according to Kelley — he said, "Now that the morning is behind us, we're in a good spot."

Kelley says that at 8:05 p.m. tonight, he'll announce the tally for all of the ballots received in his office through midnight last night.

Listen to the interview:


(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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