Recently the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to abandon the old precinct election system in favor of a new system of “voting centers” as permitted under California’s Voters Choice Act. Here’s how the new system works.
First, you won’t need to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Instead, every registered voter in the county automatically will receive a vote-by-mail ballot.
Second, the old precinct voting locations will be replaced by 188 voting centers located throughout the county. If you want to vote in person, you can do so by going to any of the 188 voting centers. You no longer are required to go to a specific precinct to vote.
Third, for the March 3rd primary these new voting centers will be open for an 11-day period from February 22nd through election day on March 3rd. So not only will you be able to vote in person at any voting center, but on any day and time during the 11-day period that is convenient for you.
Fourth, the voting centers will be “full-service” operations. You can go to any one of the centers to register to vote, or to change your present registration, or to get a replacement vote-by-mail ballot if you made a mistake on the one originally mailed to you.
Fifth, if you decide to use your vote-by-mail ballot, you now have more options for returning your filled-out ballot. As in the past, you can drop it in the mail at any post office. Or, you can drop it in anyone of the secure ballot drop boxes that will be located throughout the county. Or, you can hand it in at any one of the voting centers.
Special Note Regarding the Presidential Primary Election:
The March 3rd primary election combines two primary elections. One is the primary election for presidential candidates – that election by California law – is under the control of the political parties. The other primary election is for all the other offices up for election in 2020. In this primary everyone running for a given office is listed regardless of political party. This sometimes is referred to as California’s “top-two primary.” In the top-two primary it’s possible for the voters to choose two candidates from the same political party to run against each other in the general election.
If you indicated a party preference when you last registered to vote, your March 3rd primary ballot will include the presidential candidates running for the nomination of that party as well as all those candidates running for other offices. However, if you registered as an independent (No Party Preference) voter, your March 3rd primary ballot won’t include any presidential candidates, only the candidates running for the other offices.
But, three political parties – Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent – are allowing No Party Preference (independent) voters to request a “crossover” ballot that includes presidential candidates from one of those three parties. If you intend to vote in person at one of the voting centers, all you need to do to vote in say the Democratic primary is to request a Democratic crossover ballot at the time you vote. It will include the Democratic candidates running for president.
In addition, the Orange County Registrar of Voters sent postcards to all No Party Preference voters that they can return to request a crossover vote-by-mail ballot. If you have misplaced the postcard you can request a crossover ballot by telephone at (714) 567-7600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org before February 25, 2020.
But what if you are a No-Party-Preference voter, and you want to vote in the presidential primary of some other party besides Democratic, Libertarian, or American Independent. You are not out of luck, but it’s a little more complicated. In that case you will need to change your registration temporarily to that party. For example, if you are currently registered as a No-Party-Preference voter and you want to vote for a Republican candidate for president in the primary, you will need to re-register as a Republican. You can do that in person at any one of the voting centers or online at ocvote.com. Then after the March 3rd primary you can change your registration back to No Party Preference if you want.
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