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    Want to observe how Orange County’s primary ballots are counted? Here’s how
    • January 23, 2024

    From processing mail ballots to ensuring the software is tabulating votes correctly, there are a bevy of opportunities to observe various parts of the 2024 primary election process.

    A tool meant to ensure transparency and accuracy in the election system, the observation system is open to any member of the public, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

    The Registrar has a full schedule on its website of when and what can be observed, but some significant activities include:

    Feb. 6: Observers can watch the accuracy testing of the county’s voting system, from the preparation of test ballots to the scanning of those on all devices. Those watching can also check the processing and counting of mail ballots starting this day; that includes the collection, return process, signature verification and sorting of ballots. Accepted mail ballots, the Registrar notes, cannot be actually counted until 8 p.m. on March 5, the primary day.

    Feb. 24: The first batch of vote centers open on this day where the processing of conditional voter registration and provisional ballots begins and can be observed. More vote centers will open on March 2.

    March 5: It’s Election Day, and watchers can observe as accepted mail ballots as well as in-person votes will begin to be tabulated by the voting system.

    March 15: Observers can watch as the Registrar uses test ballots on all voting devices to ensure the system is still accurately tabulating votes.

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    Observers are not required to RSVP to take part in the process, said Enedina Chhim, a spokesperson for the Registrar of Voters.

    Observers can watch audits and vote tabulations, take notes, challenge whether staff are following procedures and ask questions of a vote center lead or “observation ambassador” (Registrar staff assigned to assist observers, explain processes, answer questions and facilitate observer challenges) as long it does not interrupt the conduct of the election process. Observers will be given a badge upon signing in and must wear it while “maintaining a professional and respectful manner,” according to guidance from the Registrar.

    Observers cannot go into an occupied voting booth, display any campaign material, directly challenge a voter, touch election-related equipment or staff, prevent other watchers from observing or use cell phones or cameras outside of designated areas, according to the guidance.

    Ballot processing, audits, testing and tallying will occur at the Registrar’s Santa Ana office, 1300 South Grand Ave, Building C, but observers can also visit the vote center and drop box locations around the county to check daily operations there.

    In addition to observing in person, the Registrar will set up live streams, including on election night.

    More dates and information about election observing can be found at the Registrar’s website, Questions can also be directed to the Registrar’s office by calling 714-567-7600.

    ​ Orange County Register