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O.C. braces for busy night with extra booths, drive-through service

November 6, 2012 |  5:27 pm

At the Orange County Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana, officials prepared for a busy evening. Extra voting booths – and a drive-through mail box for last-minute ballots -- were set up in the parking lot. A Klieg light stood ready to light up the night once the sun set.

It looked like a post office on tax day. 

Desdemona Bandini, a USC graduate student, drove from downtown Los Angeles to deliver her Orange County absentee ballot, which, due to a forwarding mix up, arrived at her temporary home on Tuesday – too late to make it in time through the mail.

VIDEO: L.A. voters discuss 2012 election

She voted for President Obama. She said she believes he’s making progress on the economy.

“He inherited such a huge mess. It’s ridiculous to think that he can wave a magic wand and fix everything quickly,” Bandini, 35, of Tustin said. “We need to give him another four years so he can finish what he started…. The 1% is squeezing out the middle class.”

But voter John Baynock said Obama had his chance to fix the economy and failed. The president’s stimulus program, Baynock said, was mismanaged and did nothing to help the poor and middle class, only piling on government debt in the process. He voted for Romney.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

“I think he has a better handle on how business works,” said Baynock, 68, of San Juan Capistrano. “Obama hasn’t done what I expected him to do. So I’m embracing change.”

Meanwhile in Little Saigon in central Orange County, dozens of people streamed past Pho 86 restaurant to cast their ballots at a local firehouse. Voters brought their children, and in some cases, their rolling luggage, stuffed with jackets, spicy shrimp chips and Vietnamese magazines to read while waiting in line. The polling place, conveniently across from Gala Bakery, allowed voters to run in and out, buying marinated chicken wrapped in phyllo dough at 85 cents each. 

Huong Nguyen, a mother of three, spent a few hours with a cup of iced coffee, mulling over her election decisions. "I'm supporting Obama," she said, "because the other guy talks too much. Who knows if he can act on everything that he says he will do?

"The president tries so hard, you can see it," she added, waving her arms for emphasis. "All my friends pressured me to vote their way, but we have the freedom here to do what we believe is best."

Bich Lien Le, her friend, interrupted the debate. Romney, she noted, "is a business person. When he ascends, he will boost this whole country and this city of Westminster along with it. He will definitely understand taxes and what needs to be done to make us successful."

Le, who moved to Orange County last year after three decades living in Guam, said she was thrilled to fill out her first U.S. ballot.

"When I choose, I choose carefully. I watched the news in different languages to make sure I know what's going on."

The two women took turns directing potential voters looking for the entrance to the fire station. A gleaming fire truck had parked in its driveway and many people could not see the tiny "vote" here sign in front, so they began to walk away.

Tram Vu, looking crestfallen, strolled out of the fire station saying workers would not allow her to turn in a ballot. "I live in Santa Ana and they told me I had to find the polling station there," she said. "I took the bus to come here, and now I don't know the address or where else I can go."

Ngoc Tran, a widow with five sons, said what's most important to her is showing support for candidates who are visible in the thriving Vietnamese American community -- regardless of their ethnic background.

"Look at Loretta" Sanchez, Tran said, citing the Latina representative's constant appearances at Lunar New Year celebrations and other immigrant gatherings. "She goes everywhere, and she knows what's happening in the community.

"If you are in a campaign, you must understand humanity. You must show you care."


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--Mike Anton and Anh Do in Orange County