Voters Faced Long Lines at Some OC Vote Centers, Even After Closing

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Voters faced long lines at the Santa Ana College voting center in Santa Ana before polls closed. The wait time was 45 minutes at 6:15 PM on Election Day, March 3, 2020.

New voting centers across Orange County were expected to make the March 3 primary one of the fastest vote counts in recent history.

Yet long lines were still showing up all over the county after 8 p.m. – when the vote centers stopped admitting new voters who weren’t already in line – prompting concern from election observers.

Orange County Registrar of Voters

Many vote centers in Orange County had long lines when polls closed at 8 p.m. on March 3, 2020. Locations with red dots are vote centers with 20 minute lines or more reported as of 8:23 p.m., 23 minutes after polls officially closed, according to a map by county election officials. Voters in line by 8 p.m. could still cast ballots under state law.

A quick analysis of wait times posted on the Register of Voters website showed that as of 8:30 p.m., there were more than 61 vote centers with wait time of more than 20 minutes.

There were 106 vote centers with wait times under 10 minutes.

Another 24 vote centers still had a wait time between 10-20 minutes.

Most of the longest wait times were around universities and up in the Northern and Central parts of county.

Yet when a Voice of OC reporter showed up at one vote center – listed as having a 52 minute wait as of 9:30 p.m. – no one was still in line as of a few minutes before 9:30.

OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley noted that the wait times posted on the Registrar’s website were potentially inaccurate as data was not updating quickly after last voters were processed.

“It relies on data clearing when the last voter is processed but it’s not clearing,” Kelley said. “We’ll troubleshoot after we get results done.”

At a Cal State Fullerton vote center, voters were still in line as of 9:30 p.m. – an hour and a half after the cutoff to get in line to vote.

Kelley acknowledged the long wait times at universities, but disputed that delays were widespread.

“Of course we have sites where there are waits,” Kelley told Voice of OC. “It’s the close of polls. We will expect to see that in some locations but we need some time to contact the sites.”

OC Democratic Chairwoman Ada Briceño expressed concerns about long wait lines.

“Orange County Democrats want equal access to the vote, and Orange County voters want to participate in our democracy. Long lines make it harder for working families to make their voices heard. We urge voters to wait in line, and we are urge the OC Registrar of Voters can help identify workable solutions.”

OC Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker said his colleagues had not expressed issues with long wait times, but did have concerns about delays in seeing vote tallies.

Online results seemed to be uploading slower than in past years. Some computer screens didn’t show election results at all.

The initial results were scheduled to be posted at 8:05 p.m. – which has rarely been a problem in past elections – but as of 8:40 p.m. still weren’t showing up on the main results page. A separate spreadsheet – which showed up on some computers but not others – showed results posted at 8:20 p.m.

Norberto Santana Jr. is the publisher of Voice of OC. You can contact him at nsantana@voiceofoc.org.