Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley on Friday will launch an audit in search of any errors that may have been made in the handling of local results, a process he undergoes in every election.
With more than 1.5 million ballots cast on or before Nov. 3, Orange County’s turnout stands at nearly 85%. Kelley estimates turnout may reach 87%, a record.
“It’s the largest volume in the county’s 131-year history,” Kelley said.
For decades, county elections officials in California have followed elections by auditing 1% of precinct results, which means recounting those ballots by hand and checking the outcome to make sure it matches machine-counted results, Kelley said. The audit is not required under California law.
Kelley reassured voters that it is a routine process and not a reflection of complaints of vote fraud from President Donald Trump in his race against former Vice President and unofficial President-Elect Joe Biden.
“The actual reality is as I’ve been saying is this is a quality-control audit that is done every day” in any industry, Kelley said. “This is something important to make sure the validity of the election is sound and the outcomes are the correct outcomes.”
Kelley said he does it “every election, every single one, and usually nobody pays any attention.”
Cries of election fraud and complaints about longer-than-usual tabulating of votes “is exposing the general lack of knowledge of elections that so many people have,” Kelley said. “If they had an understanding of the complexities and the checks and balances and the lengths the system goes through to assure correct outcomes, all of this would subside.”
Kelley plans to use a “risk-limiting audit,” which uses software to randomly select ballots for election workers to fetch and hand-count. If the manual count results aren’t proportional to the overall machine tallies in a contest, more ballots are pulled from the stacks and counted.
While it’s nearly impossible to have a 100% error-free election, Kelley said the auditing is designed to ensure the errors, if any, did not affect the outcome of any contests. It doesn’t detect voter registration fraud or ineligible people on the voter rolls, but election officials have other ways to check that, and anyone can report those concerns to the Orange County district attorney or California secretary of state.
Kelley estimated his office has about 27,600 votes yet to count. The Registrar is down to counting same-day registration votes.
Protests in Michigan, Colorado and other states have been taking place since Election Day, led by supporters of Trump who assert that various types of fraud, errors and cheating caused him to lose. On Monday, about 300 demonstrators gathered outside the OC Registrar of Voters’ Santa Ana office to question a voting system they allege is corrupt, though rally organizer Alan Hostetter said they were not protesting Orange County’s results, according to the Orange County Register
Historically a Republican stronghold, Orange County’s political makeup has undergone a substantial shift in recent years. Its 2016 support of Hillary Clinton marked the county’s first time voting for a Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 2019, the county’s number of registered Democrats surpassed that of Republicans for the first time since a brief blue burst in the 1970s.
Nearly 54% of Orange County’s ballots were cast for Biden in the 2020 election, according to data from The Times, while 44% voted for Trump.