Orange County votes in 2020


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2020 marks one of the most important elections in history and comes after a year mired in controversy, a staggering death toll from COVID-19 and numerous protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Millions of Americans have already voted in person or by mail this year because of the pandemic or cast their votes on Tuesday.  Experts are projecting it to be a close race between Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, with the final tally possibly taking days to process.

A voter drops their ballot off in the drop box at the Orange County Registar of Voters, in Santa Ana, CA on Nov. 2, 2020. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

The Orange County Registrar of Voters is the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States serving more than 1.7 million registered voters. This is also where the votes are counted and tabulated for the area. At their Santa Ana location Monday evening, voting was steady, even at almost 9 p.m. Numerous people dropped off ballots and several other people voted in person at the booths set up outside.

I asked people at the polls in Santa Ana, Mission Viejo and Irvine “What does this election mean to you?”

Kyle Garcia was at the Orange County Registrar of Voters and spoke about his concern on not just the national elections but also the local propositions and candidates.

“It is very important for me and my family, there are many local and state issues that affect us— my vote is counted and I hope all goes well,” Kyle Garcia said.

Laura Martinez puts her ballot in the drop box at the Orange County Registrar of Voters in Santa Ana on Nov. 2, 2020. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Laura Martinez who voted at the Orange County Registrar of Voters had just finished her ballot and was ready to put in the ballot box, then shared the importance of the Latino vote.

“This is the most important thing to exercise the power of the Latino people so that our voices are heard,” Martinez said.

Kayla White recently moved here from Colorado and was getting help in casting her vote at the Orange County Registrar of Voters too.

“It’s another chance for my voice to be heard.”

Voter turnout was steady at the Norman P. Murray Center in Mission Viejo on the morning of Election Day, as people dropped off their ballots in the drop box and voted in person. Customer service representatives said that voting had been busy during the morning for those wanting to vote in person.

A steady stream of voters went to the Norman P. Murray Center in Mission Viejo and cast their ballot in person on Nov. 3, 2020. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Reed Gover, a 19-year-old from Mission Viejo came to vote at the community center and wanted to make sure his ballot went into the correct location. He does numerous jobs including welding, building and even helped move horses from the canyon areas during the fires. As a union guy, he believes this election is important to him and many others.

“This election decides what happens to me in the future, it decides for the US for the next four to eight years,” Gover said. “How things are right now in America, we are fucked. Both of the candidates bring something to the table. The most important thing is that they bring the military home and clear the oil fields.”

There are numerous rules and procedures that each voting location must follow during an election and in the state of California, Democrats, Republicans and non-partisan groups send people out to various voting locations to ensure the voting process is handled according to guidelines. For example, wearing campaign badges or taking campaign material or literature into the polling place is not permitted, as well as posting election-related signs within 100 feet of a polling place.

Louise Adler is one of these volunteer observers or what is also known as a poll watcher. She is a retired college professor and the leader of the Canyon Democrats.  She came by the Mission Viejo community center to check on the voting process to make sure the voting guidelines were being followed.

“We heard that there would be a mob of people, but everyone is following the rules,” Adler said.

As voters walked into the polls, Ilene Schneider, Beth Fujishige and Jaewon Lim continue campaigning for their candidates at the Irvine City Center courtyard`. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

At Irvine City Hall, voters waited up to an hour to cast their vote and fluctuated throughout the day. Numerous people continued to campaign for their candidate in the courtyard of City Hall, while still adhering to the 100-foot rule of not being near the voting booths. Once inside the voting room, customer service representatives helped voters with the process.

Customer service representatives Shawn Yuan and Elena Marukhlenko, help the in person voters at the Irvine City Hall on Election Day. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Voters ranged in age and nationality and several brought their children with them to see how the voting process works.

Isamar Collazo and her child and niece Brigieth Balerio came to vote together at Irvine City Hall. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Isamar Collazo and her niece and child came to vote at the Irvine City Hall and stressed the importance of her family obligation.

“Not everyone in our family can vote, so our vote really matters. We want to make a huge difference, so every vote counts,” Collazo said.

Mircea Bubesti a adult English as a Second Language teacher at Saddleback College finished his voting at City Hall before sharing his viewpoint on the upcoming presidential election.

”It’s either the end of our democracy and the beginning of a dictatorship or a return to our civil roots and obligations,” Bubesti said.

Brooke Young and her children went to vote at Irvine City Hall on Nov. 3, 2020. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Brooke Young and her son and daughter came to vote together and were unified in their response to why this election was important to them.

“If we stick with the same president, nothing would change,” her son said.

Brook Young looked down at her son before replying.

“He said my words,” Young said.

Medi Deway dresses patriotically to cast his vote at Irvine City Hall, Nov. 3, 2020. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat

Medi Deway was dressed in red, white and blue to show his patriotism and came to cast his vote at Irvine City Hall.

“It’s going to change a lot of things; we have become very polarized as a country and now people have to choose,” Deway said. “One person will destroy the country and the other will build up this country. I love this country, that’s why I came here.”

Michelle Loveall who is in her 70’s has been a Republican all her life and feels a strong sense of responsibility and being independent. She also came in person to cast her vote at Irvine City Hall.

“I just feel in the last four years that the country has seen a president make a difference from the norm.” Loveall said. “I know people are concerned about the pandemic, but we have survived other issues. I have worked my whole life and I still work; I don’t want the government to take care of me.”

As the day comes to an end, the election draws to a close and the ballots will be counted. What will remain is that we are all Americans.

As the sunset fades in the background in Dana Point on Election Day 2020, a Biden flag flies in the wind and a Trump flag and an American flag fly in the background. Heather Wieshlow/Lariat