So far, less than one-sixth of Orange County mail-in ballots returned

Ed Joyce/KPCC

Workers process mail-in ballots at the Orange County Registrar's Office. Nearly half of Orange County’s registered voters send their ballots in by mail, but so far the Registar has only seen 115,000 of 680,000 ballots.

Nearly half of Orange County’s registered voters send their ballots in by mail. Postmarks don’t count, and with only a few days until next Tuesday, the mail-in returns are trickling in.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said his office sent out about 680,000 vote-by-mail ballots for the June primary. So far, voters have returned only 115,000.

“Right now, what we’re seeing compared to two years ago is about a 12 percent drop," said Kelley. "So, we want people to get out there and vote. We make the opportunity for them, but we need them to return their ballot.”

Kelley said mail-in ballot returns across the state are running historically low — and that’s reflected in Orange County, too.

“In comparison to two years ago, to be fair, there were a lot more state propositions on the ballot than in June," Kelley pointed out. "Right now, we have the late primary that’s taking place, so there’s not as much interest.”

The registrar’s office will check the mail-in ballots for errors and then lock ‘em up. The votes aren’t tallied until election night.

Kelley oversees the fifth largest voting operation in the country; there are more registered voters in Orange County than in 21 states.

He said he expects more than half of the county’s 1.6 million registered voters will be permanent vote-by-mail voters by November.

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