Typically the hub of hockey and music entertainment in Orange County, the Honda Center had not held any events since March 11, but that changed when the arena became a “supersite” vote center on Oct. 30.
Home to over 90 voting booths, the Honda Center served as the largest of nearly 170 voting sites in the county. People could not only vote in person but could also opt for drive-thru voting or drive-thru mail ballot drop-off until 8 p.m. on Election Day, according to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
Inside the center, people had the option to use paper or electronic ballots. For most of the day, wait times to enter the center did not exceed 10 minutes.
Enedina Chhim, the registrar’s lead staff member for the Honda Center, said that the arena was able to become a voting site after coordinating with the arena staff and the Anaheim Ducks, who play their home games at the center.
“They made it really easy for us as well. They were able to work with us, they understood our needs as far as setting up a voting location right,” Chhim said. “They were very helpful all the way through and continue to be very supportive.”
Chhim added that voters were excited about being able to vote at the arena, as many stadiums across the country have served as polling places. She said it was a unique experience, considering how some people took full tours of the voting booths and the drive-thru voting in the northside parking lot, just to see what was offered.
For the drive-thru option, voters would drive up to one of the canopies where a poll volunteer would verify their information and voter registration. Once verified, voters were handed a ballot and could park at any marked parking space to fill out their ballot, without having to get out of their car. Once their ballot was filled out, voters dropped it off at another canopy near the exit before leaving the parking lot.
Being the first-ever drive-thru voting place in the county, Chhim said it was one of the challenges that came with organizing the polling place, as she needed to figure out how many lanes were needed and what services would be offered, as well as training volunteers on voter safety.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the country, social distancing measures and hand sanitizer dispensers were implemented wherever people chose to vote. Before voters filled out their ballots in a voting booth or on an electronic ballot, polling volunteers sanitized each station.
After getting off of work, Sabrina Rodriguez, a 32-year-old Stanton resident, was immediately on her phone in search of a vote center, soon learning that the Honda Center was an option. She found her overall experience to be very exciting, as staff expressed friendly attitudes throughout the voting process and cheered people on as they exited.
David Alaniz and Sharona Tetitla, both 27-year-old Anaheim residents, said they were looking for a quick voting experience and figured the size of the Honda Center would ensure that.
“I saw that it’s the biggest place you can vote at in Orange County,” Tetitla said. “When I heard that I was like, ‘oh it’s probably going to be faster.’”
Tetitla said her voting experience at the arena evoked feelings of nostalgia as she reminisced on previous concert memories. She added that the wait time was shorter than she expected.
“I think it's a really cool use of space considering that they're not doing anything else with it,” Alaniz said.
Alaniz and Tetitla said they were both pleased with the overall experience and appreciated the custom Ducks “I Voted” stickers the center offered. Alaniz said he regrets his decision not to vote in the last election, but now he made sure his voice would count.
Stewart Samuels, a 52-year-old Orange resident, said he had taken his son to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the arena before and was happy that it was being used as a voting center, given the lack of events due to COVID-19. Like previous comments, Samuels found his voting experience to be surprisingly good, in reference to the friendly staff. He said that it was important to vote for change in this election and to bring the country together rather than dividing it.
“Right now we need more unity in our country more than anything else,” Samuels said. “I think it's very important to vote right now, more than any other time I've ever done it.”