Watching Absentees Trend Up While Forking Over for Voting Machines

An Orange County polling place. Photo courtesy of the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

More and more voters these days are saying no thanks to the election-day poll experience and literally mailing it in.

In Orange County, about 25 percent of voters will cast their ballots by mail in the June primary, according to Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. Kelley sent out 619,000 absentee ballots in early May and he reports that a bit over 79,000 have already been returned.

So why, wonders County Supervisor John Moorlach, have American taxpayers spent nearly $50 million to purchase 10,000 new electronic voting machines in Orange County over the past decade?

Moorlach posed this question at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting just before approving $1.5 million in pass-though funds for maintenance of said voting machines.

The answer, said Kelley, is that we have no choice. It’s a federal mandate.

“The reality is a lot of voters are moving to vote by mail,” Kelley said. “But you’ve still got voters who enjoy the poll site experience. And until there’s a statewide mandate (for mail voting), that’s not going away.”

There is talk of going to all-mail elections like they do in Oregon. State legislators are now considering legislation to conduct such a pilot program in Yolo County in Northern California.

But for the time being Kelley has to keep Orange County’s voting machines ready for long lines if voters show up to the polls.

“I have to be ready for both,” he said.



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