The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to move forward with an overhaul of the way voters cast ballots, with the effort expected to be completed in time for the next presidential election.
The supervisors voted unanimously to seek bids for the implementation of a voting-center model that scraps the old precinct system. The process will also include the purchase of new voting equipment.
The new system will likely be rolled out in March 2020 for the presidential primary, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said.
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Under the voting-center model, 188 voting sites will be established throughout the county, and voters can cast their ballots anywhere that is convenient for them -- ending the requirement that they do so in a specific neighborhood precinct. Also, officials will have 90 drop-off boxes for ballots through the count.
The new system has benefits such as replacing volunteer poll workers with registrar staff, who are better trained, Kelley said. Also, it will feature electronic check-in, which is more reliable at combating vote fraud than the paper roster process, Kelley said. He said if someone casts a ballot in San Diego, they would not be able to cast another one in Orange County without a computer system flagging the fraud.
Some residents told supervisors they supported the elimination of the old precinct system in light of the rash of school shootings nationwide. Many voting precincts are located at local schools.
"The issue of school security is definitely a concern," Supervisor Doug Chaffee said.
Officials expect to rent some retail spaces for use at voting centers, and use existing voter sites such as the county Hall of Administration in downtown Santa Ana.
The cost of implementing the system is estimated at $11.2 million to $18.8 million.
"It is the most efficient and the most cost-effective option," Kelley told supervisors.
A separate proposal that would have included 313 voting center sites would have cost $18.3 million to $31 million. And another option of 500 voting centers would have cost an estimated $29 million to $49.1 million.
Staying with the current system of 1,200 voting sites would cost $23.4 million to $40 million to overhaul and maintain, officials said.