Today is California’s Presidential Primary. I have voted in every election since my eighteenth birthday and I enjoy going to a polling place to vote, though I’ve voted a few times using an absentee ballot as well. I think that voting in every election (primary or otherwise) is important and should be fairly easy. While listening to NPR this afternoon (between 3-4 PST) the announcer mentioned that less than 5% of Orange County voters had cast a vote. When I went to look at the Registrar’s page, voting trends for Orange County for the past few years elections turnout has been dismal to say the least – 30% on average for the last few elections. A part of this, I’m sure is because many people had the same problem I did today in locating a polling place.
Today my problem was I could not locate easily locate a polling place near work. This morning I got out the door a little later than expected and my polling place had moved since the last election and I got lost trying to drive to the new polling place. After driving in circles for 15 minutes I decided I would come to work and go vote on my lunch break. I live about 30-45 minutes away from work with light traffic; my commute is just long enough that I cannot realistically go home, vote and return within a 1 hour lunch break. And on Tuesdays, I have dinner with friends after work which means I’m usually not home until 9-10pm. One of my coworkers has a similar problem, his commute is quite long and he has to leave his house at 6 to get to work on time and often does not return home until the late evening. I can only imagine the difficulties in voting if you have to work several jobs or if you are a student without access to a car.
So, I went to the OC Registrar of Voters page and used their “Find your polling place” feature and the first glaring problem is you need a street address to find a polling place instead of being able to browse by city. Langson, like many of the UCI buildings does not have a street address, so I put in the Law Library’s address. This address gave me an error message. So I sought help using the chat option, to no avail; the helper was unable to help me and did not seem to have any information beyond knowing the basic layout of the registrar’s website. She could not even provide a link to take me to the find your polling place tab. I consulted with one of my colleagues in reference who was able to find a polling place by making up an address in University Hills, a neighborhood near the campus. She was not able to find a list of polling places on the website or elsewhere on the web. I finally decided to use my friends’ address since they are about 10 minutes from campus. I’m sure I passed a half dozen polling places on my drive to the one near my friend’s address but I could not say for sure without a list or a map.
The volunteers who run the polling places are wonderful, and they really made my day. They were very helpful but they could not help me find anything beyond what was immediately in their vicinity. I understand that polling places cannot always remain the same from election to election because the place is staffed and provided by volunteers. That said, some places are more public than others and should have a polling place available – the university being one of them. While some place providers would (understandably) object to being on a publicly available list, libraries, Boys & Girls clubs, senior centers, schools, etc. where voting is often hosted should be fine with providing their information so voters who are away from home can cast their ballot.
I found a real time results page here. (If you click before 8 pm, there are no results until they begin tallying the votes.) If you can put together something this elaborate, you can cobble together a list of public polling places so I can vote from work without jumping through hoops. If people are able to find a polling place easily they would be more likely to vote. For a number of reasons, I do not think moving toward online voting is a good option at this point in time, so please make it easier for me to exercise my civic duty.