Orange County changes vote system

OC alters voting systems to promote accessibility.


Jaime Svinth

This vote center is one of many located across Orange County where voters have access to a myriad of services.

Orange County implemented a new voting system in order to improve voter accessibility as part of the Voter’s Choice Act passed in 2016, which, according to the California Secretary of State, “modernize[s] elections in California by allowing counties to conduct elections under a new model which provides greater flexibility and convenience for voters.” Since the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to change the county’s election processes in February 2019, major changes have been made, including the switch to “vote center” elections, changes in mail-in ballots and the implementation of more ballot drop boxes.

188 vote centers have been spread across the county to replace the previous polling centers. These facilities offer more services than previously provided by polling places. This includes in-person voting, voter registration, obtaining a replacement ballot and general voting assistance. Security has been prioritized with a new electronic check-in system, improved data encryption and tamper seals.

Voter accessibility has been promoted with a new law allowing voters to vote at any vote center in the county, instead of being restricted to an assigned polling center.

“You’re able to go to a vote center anywhere in the county, so you don’t have to be assigned to one location, you can go anywhere that’s closer for you,” said Randall Avila, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Orange County.

Along the same lines, vote centers will also be open longer, with 38 centers open for 11 days including Election Day and 188 locations open for four days including Election Day.

All registered voters now receive a mail-in ballot that can either be mailed in, dropped off at a vote center, or deposited into new ballot drop boxes. Along with these mail ballots, there will be 110 military-grade ballot drop boxes located throughout Orange County that are open for 30 days, including Election Day. A map of all vote centers and ballot drop boxes can be found at

All of these changes are due to changes in studied voter trends. These indicate that voters prefer to either vote-by-mail or drop off their ballot at a vote center, rather than to vote in person. Orange County has been experiencing a growth in vote-by-mail since 1996, with percentages increasing from 61 percent in 2016 to 72 percent in 2018 and projected growth to 83 percent in 2020 and 91 percent in 2022, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

All these changes might be confusing for those who have just been granted the opportunity to vote, like high school seniors or freshmen in college.

“You’d probably be excited to go out and vote in person for the first time, I personally advise against it,” said Johnny Lauro, Political Coordinator of the Republican Party of Orange County. “ Since there are fewer vote centers than there were precinct polling locations, you might have longer lines.”

Instead, Lauro wants new voters to vote in the most convenient way possible, whether that be voting by mail-in-ballot, ballot dropbox, or voting in person.

In short, these new systems should make voting more convenient and accessible especially for young voters.

Avila points out, “If you go to college in Orange County you most likely have a convenient vote center or ballot drop box there on campus for you since they do have a lot more options for young people now.”