How to avoid long lines on Election Day in Southern California

Election guide

The best way to avoid long lines on Election Day is to vote by mail and vote early, election officials say.

During the March 3 primary, Los Angeles County saw hourslong wait times at vote centers. That was largely attributed to technical issues, including paper jams and poll book problems, and officials said they were working to address the issues leading up to the general election.

This time around, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all registered voters in California were mailed a ballot — and those ballots can be mailed, put into an official ballot drop box, or taken to a voting location. The use of mail ballots is expected to significantly reduce the number of people casting ballots in person. 

As of Friday, Oct. 23, Californians had returned more than 6 million vote-by-mail ballots — that’s some 28% of the more than 21 million ballots issued.

Nonetheless, there are those who prefer to vote in person. For them, we have some tips on how to try to avoid spending a long time at voting locations.

For in-person voting in L.A. County, more than 100 voting centers will be open beginning Oct. 24. Other counties in Southern California are opening their voting locations on Oct. 30 or Oct. 31, though a handful of locations are open earlier.

All voting locations in California are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The early voting sites are especially important in counties where there may be fewer in-person voting locations than normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic — which is yet another reason to avoid crowding.

Here are some ideas to avoid long lines while voting in person:

Vote early at centers and registrars’ offices

Head to an early voting location or your county’s registrar office to avoid the Election Day rush. Here’s what our local counties are doing:

In each county, the registrar’s office also accepts in-person voters, though hours differ from county to county.

  • Los Angeles County registrar’s office, 12400 Imperial Highway, Norwalk
    • Oct. 5 to Oct. 23, excluding weekends: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • weekend of Oct. 24 to Oct. 25: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Oct. 26 to Oct. 30: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • weekend of Oct. 31 to Nov. 1: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Orange County Registrar of Voters, 1300 S. Grand Ave. Bldg C, Santa Ana. These are the same hours as the county’s other vote centers.
    • Oct. 30 to Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Riverside County Registrar of Voters, 2720 Gateway Drive lobby, Riverside. These are the same hours as the county’s other voter assistance centers.
    • Oct. 31 to Nov. 2: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, 777 E. Rialto Ave., San Bernardino
    • Oct. 5 to Nov. 3, excluding weekends: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • weekend of Oct. 31 to Nov. 1: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Ventura County Elections Division, Government Center, Hall of Administration, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura. These are the same hours as the county’s other in-person voting locations.
    • Oct. 31 to Nov. 2: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Nov. 3: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Complete your ballot at home

If you fill your ballot out at home but prefer not to mail it or use an official ballot drop box, you can just drop it off at any of the open voting locations.

There should be separate lines for voters with completed ballots or even no wait times — depending on when you go.

Check in at the vote center

In Los Angeles County, voters can speed up their check-in at the vote center by scanning their “quick check-in code” (found on your mailed sample ballot and vote center postcard, or when you enter your personal information).

Show that code to the election worker at the center to instantly check in.

Arrive at off-peak times

While there’s no way of knowing how busy it’ll be before you get there, vote centers in California typically get more crowded before and after work hours, so mid-afternoon might be best.

Verify your voter registration information in advance

You can check your registration status on the California Secretary of State’s website to make sure everything is correct ahead of arriving to vote.

For L.A. County voters, take time to watch how to vote on the new devices

Orange County also has a pre-COVID preview of how voter centers work.

Missed the traditional deadline and need same-day voter registration?

After the Oct.19 deadline, voters can complete same-day voter registration at their local county elections office or an in-person voting location, but they’ll have to cast a provisional ballot.

Search here to find locations that will be able to register you on the spot.

Here’s what you need to know to fill the registration form:

  • Your California driver license or identification card number
  • The last four digits of your social security number
  • Your date of birth

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