SANTA ANA (CNS) - Orange County Registrar of Voters Bob Page took reporters on a tour of his offices Tuesday to assure the public of multiple layers of security implemented to protect against fraud in the upcoming election.
Page has put up monitors in the offices at 1300 S. Grand Ave. to give observers a better view of how ballots are handled.
"Our processes are transparent," he said. "They can come and observe what we do."
Page emphasized that voters are entitled to know how his office functions and said, "If someone has questions, we will respond."
The county opened 37 vote centers Saturday and will open another 144 this Saturday. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this week, but starting Saturday they will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day, Nov. 8.
As of Monday, about 3,443 voters have cast ballots at a voting center, Page said. Most of the county's 1.8 million registered voters who like to cast a ballot in person usually do so on election day, Page said.
Of the mail ballots sent to every registered voter, 245,022 have been returned so far, Page said.
The county has 121 ballot drop boxes throughout the county that are "very strong, very thick steel" and are "bolted into the ground," Page said.
The county has 10 two-person teams that are assigned randomized routes each day for their protection as well as to better secure the ballots, Page said. They have a protocol that includes taking pictures of the inside of the ballot boxes to show the ballots have been collected by them, and putting a seal on them, which is removed the next time the ballots are collected, Page added.
Sheriff's deputies are notified of the location of each ballot box and vote center, and accompany Registrar ballot collectors back to the agency's offices in Santa Ana.
After the ballots are dropped off, machines are used to open each envelope and extract the ballots. The machines also take an image of the signature and bar code on the envelope to help keep track of a ballot that voters can monitor and to guard against repeat voting, Page said. If someone is told they have already voted but insist they haven't, they can cast a provisional ballot and the agency's staff will determine what happened later.
Teams also work to ensure signatures from registered voters match the signatures on ballots. If three Registrar staffers agree a signature doesn't match, the office reaches out to the voter to give them a chance to clear up the dispute.
"We use people through the process" instead of software as is done in other offices, Page said.
If votes make a mistake and check boxes instead of filling them in, or use a pencil instead of a pen, there are ways the office can duplicate the ballot so it will scan correctly through the counting machines, Page said.
He added that vote-scanning machines are not connected to the internet. Neither are the voting machines in voting centers, Page said. That guards against any "vote flipping" on electronic machines.
Page also said the county runs test ballots through each scanner to check their accuracy. If a machine doesn't pass a test, it is not used in the counting process. The county also does an audit after each election to look for any issues in vote tabulations.
"In the last election there were no discrepancies in the audit," Page said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is staffing local elections because officials want to "take threats to vote workers seriously," Page said. But he added he was confident that local law enforcement will be available and aware of all the vote centers and ballot boxes.
"We believe the elections in Orange County are safe and secure," Page said. "But we are always looking at ways to improve our processes."
There have been scattered reports of people monitoring ballot boxes such as has occurred in Arizona and elsewhere in the country, but no complaints of voter intimidation at this point in Orange County, Page said.