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Orange County, Calif., to Expand Ballot Tracking This Summer

For a total of nine drop-box locations, the Orange County Registrar of Voters will see how new ballot-tracking technology during the upcoming June primary election affects the process of voting.

voter inserting ballot into ballot box
In a pilot announced last week, the Orange County Registrar of Voters in California will test new ballot-tracking technology at select drop boxes during the June primary election.

In recent years, election security has become a top priority. By the 2020 election, 45 states had some form of ballot tracking for voting through mail-in ballots. Because experts expect election security to be a priority this year, local governments are looking to additional technology for greater transparency.

According to Census data, 43 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail in 2020 — more than double the 21 percent of voters who did so in 2016.

For Orange County voters, the ballot is already tracked from ballot pickup through the tally process, but the new tech will allow voters to track the ballot right when they put it in the box.

All vote-by-mail ballots for the June 2022 election will have what resembles a QR code on the envelope. When a voter approaches one of the nine drop boxes that have a bar-code reader, they can scan their ballot. Assuming the individual has updated their voter information with text notifications enabled, they'll receive a text confirming the ballot has been dropped off, as explained by a spokesperson from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

The scanner will use BoxLock technology, which has been used to track tissue samples in the medical field.

In the Registrar of Voters office, staff will be able to see where the ballots are being dropped off. This data, as well as the impact on voters, will be assessed after the election concludes to determine whether to expand the technology across the entire county.

While the voter does need to have text message notifications enabled, a voter doesn't need to have a connected device to be in the pilot.

Additionally, if an individual who votes by mail chooses to opt out of this additional step, they can simply use the drop boxes without scanning the envelope.

The next step in the pilot is voter education, the spokesperson said, and ensuring that voters are aware that this technology will be available to them in the June 2022 election.

“I think a lot of people are recognizing that we’ve already maintained a ballot-tracking system here,” the spokesperson said. “And if anything, this becomes an added item — or an added layer — of the ability of voters to really see where their ballot is located.”