The minute the polls closed on Tuesday night, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department sprang into action.
“It’s a hive of activity,” said Loren Webb, reserve captain for southwest operations overseeing the 88 reserve deputies on duty Tuesday night. “There’s hundreds of people working in there and we’re making sure only the right people are in the right areas.”
A total of 76 reserve deputies dispatched countywide to collect and safely deliver ballots to the Orange County Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana, while others secured the Registrar’s building.
“There’s been a lot of heightened attention on Orange County elections this year,” said Ray Grangoff, OCSD Government Relations Manager. “With the control of the House of Representatives at stake, both parties are putting a tremendous amount of resources into the election. It’s always important that we are out there protecting the sanctity of the vote, but I think there’s an added level of scrutiny this time around because there’s so much that depends on this election.”
Orange County is the fifth largest jurisdiction in the United States, with 1.5 million registered voters, two thirds of which vote by mail.
“What’s more important than making sure that democracy goes smooth in our county?” Webb asked. He’s been volunteering to work election night for 23 years. “There’s a ton of people that are working to make sure that this goes smooth and I just have a little part in organizing the security here at the vote tally center.”
This year, voter turnout appeared to exceed expectations, with lines more than an hour long in some areas, including at the Registrar’s office. Ali Pirmoradi, senior communications technician for the OCSD, waited for 1.5 hours to vote before his shift in the dispatch center.
“It’s fun,” Pirmoradi said. “Working dispatch, you see what’s going on everywhere. It’s more crowded than the last election.”
The 43 vans and 33 trucks, each manned with a driver and a deputy, visited 33 Orange County sites – some requiring several trips to collect everything – to deliver ballots and polling place materials (including thousands of voting machines, tables, chairs, and more) to the Registrar’s office. At the office, eleven reserve deputies provided security. Strict rules are in place, with Registrar workers wearing color-coded t-shirts that determine which areas they’re allowed in.
The volunteer deputies save the county quite a bit of money, said Adriana Spirescu, ballot transportation coordinator and the senior communication technician for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“They’re full sworn peace officers but they’re providing that service at no cost to the taxpayer, which is a good thing,” said Ray Grangoff, OCSD Government Relations Manager. “They are… just escorting the Registrar of Voters workers, making sure they’re safe, making sure there’s no attempts to compromise the sanctity of the ballot or any attempts by anyone to steal ballots. Really, it’s to protect the integrity of the vote.”
The deputies are also on hand throughout election day and available to answer any polling-related calls for service or handle any problems that may arise.
“We are being watchful of the polling places,” Grangoff said. There haven’t been any issues in Orange County in recent years, he said. “Oftentimes, the uniform is a deterrent.”
The OCSD has been providing election security to the Registrar of Voters for more than three decades. Deputies guard the doors during candidate filing deadlines as well, to ensure that candidates file by 5 p.m. sharp.
Once the trucks and vans return to the Registrar of Voters office, the more than 300 Registrar employees and volunteers make quick haste unloading materials onto a conveyor belt and ensuring ballots are counted.
“This is a great opportunity to do some public service and to give back to the community,” said Reserve Commander Mike Beekman, who has been helping on election nights for the past 25 years. “I feel very strongly that voting is very important to our society and this is an opportunity for us to support the voting process. I think most of the guys here probably feel the same way.”