By Erik Galicia
Voting center operations in Riverside County ran smoothly on Election Day despite having less than half of the locations and workers available than in previous years, according to county officials.
Brooke Federico, Riverside County Executive Office public information officer, reported that the county offered 600 polling places and employed 3,500 poll workers in previous elections. This year, the county offered 130 voting centers and employed 1,500 workers on Election Day.
The decrease in workers and facilities is a result of the increase in mail-in ballots received.
“(Voter assistance centers) were open three full days prior to Election Day,” Federico said Nov. 3. “That was to make sure we could accommodate for social distancing and people could vote early.”
Over 1.2 million ballots were issued in Riverside County. Just under 52% of those ballots were received prior to Election Day.
Although there was a decrease in poll workers countywide, Federico reported there was an increase in workers at the Riverside County Registrar of Voters Office, where the nearly 645,000 ballots received by Nov. 3 were actually being processed and counted.
During prior elections, the Registrar of Voters employed 400 workers. This year, they employed almost double that amount. County headquarters hired 700 workers to assist with ballots.
According to Federico, the county did not see any suspicious activity regarding ballots up to Election Day. Duplicate ballots were provided in cases of lost or damaged ballots, but Federico assured that only one ballot could be returned by each voter and that extensive research goes into such situations.
“If more than one is passed, the system will notice right away,” she said.
Yaoska Machado, Riverside County public information specialist, reported that no such problems had been noted as of Nov. 12.
“There are no issues or delays counting or processing ballots,” Machado said via email. “It continues to run smoothly.”
Although a majority of locals lined up at voting centers reported being satisfied with operations, some voters in the area reported experiencing long lines and wait times at Moreno Valley College and the Moreno Valley Senior Center.
James Etienne, Riverside County Election Office assistant, attributed long lines on Election Day to voters flooding the centers in their own neighborhoods, at which they felt most comfortable.
“A lot of people are just choosing to come here,” he said about the Moreno Valley Senior Center on Nov. 3. “There are 10 voting centers in Moreno Valley that they could have gone to. They’re just more familiar with this area.”
The Registrar of Voters offered a drive-through ballot drop-off option, which ran efficiently and had voters in-and-out in a matter of minutes.
“In the five years that I’ve been doing this, this is the smoothest operation we’ve had,” Chuck Skaggs, Riverside County Geographic Information Services supervisor, said Nov. 3.
Skaggs reported that the highest amount of traffic at the drive-through ballot drop-off was actually seen during early voting in the days prior to Election Day.
Paul Burgarino, Registrar of Voters chief deputy, noted that Riverside County voters were eager to have their voices heard despite the long lines and social distancing guidelines.
“It’s the Super Bowl of elections because it’s the presidential (election), so you expect a lot of people to want to come out,” he said. “It’s been great to see so many county residents participate in democracy.”
According to the Registrar of Voters website, 25,000 provisional ballots still awaited processing as of Nov. 13. Arriving mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted up until Nov. 20. Updates are posted weekdays at 6 p.m.