2020 presidential election: what Orange County voters need to know about casting a ballot

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An official voting drop box is located at the Mary Wilson Library. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

On October 5, the Orange County Registrar of Voters, the agency tasked with administering elections, began sending vote-by-mail ballots to the roughly 1.7 million registered voters in the county. As you wait for your ballot to arrive in the mail, you might have some questions including: How do you cast your ballot? Can you track it? Can you still vote in person? What safety measures are being taken due to COVID-19?

Here is what you need to know about voting in the 2020 Presidential General Election in Orange County.

Not registered to vote yet? There’s still time.

October 19 is the deadline to register to vote for the election on Nov. 3. Check your status by visiting: https://registertovote.ca.gov. If you miss the Oct. 19 registration deadline, you still have options. You can register to vote from Oct. 20 through Election Day by completing a conditional voter registration form. You can do this at the Registrar of Voters office at 1300 S. Grand Avenue, Bldg. C, Santa Ana, 92705. Visit https://www.ocvote.com/registration/conditional-voter-registration or call 714-567-7600 for more details.

What are the options for casting a vote-by-mail ballot?

After your vote-by-mail ballot arrives, fill it out, seal the return envelope and be sure to sign it (that is how the ballot is verified). Here are your options on how to submit it.

1) Mail it through the U.S. Postal Service: Your ballot is postage-paid so after filling it out, you can drop it in a USPS Mailbox or at a USPS Post Office. It must be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, and must arrive at the registrar’s office by Nov. 20, to be eligible to be counted.

2) Deposit it in a Secure Ballot Drop Box: The OC Registrar of Voters has set up more than 100 ballot drop boxes throughout the county. The drop boxes are open 24/7 now through Election Day, Nov. 3, until 8 p.m.

3) Drop it off at a Vote Center: Assigned polling places are no longer being used in Orange County. Instead there are nearly 170 Vote Centers across the county. You can vote in-person (more on that later) or drop off your completed mail-in ballot at any Vote Center. Vote Centers will be open for five days. From Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 they are open from 8am until 8pm. On Election Day, Nov. 3, they are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Find locations at www.ocvote.com/options.

How are vote-by-mail ballots verified?

When it comes to vote-by-mail ballots, your signature on the return envelope is key. The registrar’s office checks that signature against your past voter registration forms to verify it matches. What happens if a voter’s signature on the mail-in-ballot return envelope is missing or doesn’t match voting records? The registrar’s office will make an effort to contact the voter and provide the opportunity to fix the issue.

Here’s how you can track your ballot

The State of California and the OC Registrar’s office are offering a way for you to track when your vote-by-mail ballot is mailed to you and when it is confirmed that it is received. Choose to be notified via email or phone about the status of your ballot. Sign up at: https://california.ballottrax.net/voter/ or at www.ocvote.com/track.

What about claims that vote-by-mail ballots lead to fraud?

The OC Registrar’s office has a FAQ page on “Voting Myths” on its website and addresses this question this way. “Each voter is only allowed to vote one ballot. If a voter returns their ballot received through the mail, and then votes in person at a Vote Center, our office will only count the first ballot received. Additionally, it is illegal to willfully vote more than once, and the voter’s information would be turned over to the District Attorney’s office to investigate.”

Where can I vote in person?

As mentioned above, you can cast a ballot in-person at any of the nearly 170 Vote Centers set up across the county. That includes the Vote Center Super Site at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Honda Center is one of 42 Vote Centers that will have drive-thru voting options where people can vote or drop off a ballot from their vehicles. Visit ocvote.com/votecenter for more information.

What measures are being taken at Vote Centers due to COVID-19?

“If you do choose to vote in-person, voting equipment cleanliness and physical distancing matter greatly. We have taken unprecedented steps to put additional safety measures in place,” OC Registrar Neal Kelley said in a press release from Sept. 21. Vote Centers will have poll workers wearing face coverings and gloves and voting stations will be spaced apart for physical distancing. Voting booths will be sanitized between use and disposable pens will be used. More information at ocvote.com/covid.

How Do I Vote in the 2020 General Election?

Registered voters in Orange County will receive a vote-by-mail ballot in the coming days. Voters can drop off their completed vote-by-mail ballot at any drop box or Vote Center in the county or send it through the U.S. Postal Service. You can also vote in-person at a Vote Center.

Nearby ballot drop box locations

*Drop Boxes Available 24/7 until Nov.3 at 8 p.m.*

Cypress

City of Cypress Community Center, 5700 Orange Avenue

Veterans Park, 4554 Avenida Granada

La Palma

La Palma City Hall, 7822 Walker Street

Los Alamitos

Los Alamitos Community Center, 10911 Oak Street

Seal Beach

Mary Wilson Library, 707 Electric Avenue (outside entrance closer to PCH)

Leisure World, 13531 St. Andrews Drive (in front of Amphitheater)

Stanton

Stanton Branch Library, 7850 Katella Avenue

Nearby vote center locations

• Vote Centers Open Oct. 30-Nov.2, 8am-8pm/Election Day, Nov. 3, 7am-8pm*

Cypress

Cypress College, Theater Arts, 9200 Valley View Street (Park in Lot 1)

Cypress Community Center, 5700 Orange Avenue

Cypress Senior Center, 9031 Grindlay Street

La Palma

La Palma Community Center, 7821 Walker Street

Los Alamitos

Los Alamitos Unified School District, 10293 Bloomfield Street

Rush Park, 3021 Blume Drive

Seal Beach

City of Seal Beach Fire Station #48, 3131 North Gate Road

Seal Beach Senior Center, 707 Electric Avenue

*A Pop-Up Vote Center will be available to Leisure World Residents only on Oct. 30 from 8am-5pm at 1419 Northwood Road next to Clubhouse 4

Stanton

Stanton Community Center at City Hall, 7800 Katella Avenue

Stanton Central Park, 10660 Western Avenue

For more information, visit http://www.ocvote.com.