Many of you know that I challenged the San Diego Registrar of Voters in San Diego court after the 2016 Presidential Primary Election between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I did so because it came to my attention that after election night, voters are misled by the “projected winners” reports and “100% precincts reporting” notations.
The reality is that 50% or less of all the ballots cast are received and tallied by the time we hear those reports and read those notations. As more voters elect to vote by mail (previously called absentee ballot), we will see a majority of ballots tallied after election day. The only post-election legal process in place is the 1% Manual Tally which is only done to test the accuracy of the counting machines because not 100% of the ballots are even included in the universe of ballots subject to the 1% Manual Tally.
If you add suspicious use of white out tape on ballots and practices promoting misuse of provisional ballots, you have the recipe for electoral disaster. Proposed ideas but not yet law, such as the “Risk Limiting Audit,” are designed to increase the sampling size when an election result is close. But neither the existing 1% Manual Tally nor proposed Risk Limiting Audit can police the level of fraud such as what we just witnessed in North Carolina.
Interesting details about the reported ballot tampering scandal in North Carolina: There the election fraud consisted of requesting vote-by-mail (absentee) ballots for people and then picking up those ballots later from the voter or filling the ballot out for GOP candidates or discarding those that voted for the Democratic candidate. The election for the North Carolina 9th Congressional District, thankfully, will be thrown out and redone. But California also permits a third party to handle a voter’s ballot and even to deliver the ballot to the Registrar. Presently, we have no real way to police nefarious acts by third party outsiders or Registrar insiders in California. The Registrar is the last stop for the ballots.
Presently, I am fighting the San Diego Registrar on its curious policy of not allowing inspection of the ballots pursuant to the California Public Records Act. We await a decision of the Court of Appeals soon. Citizen groups and journalists should be allowed to investigate ballots by public record inspection.
Reform is needed to catch up with technologic advances and with policing the power brokers that are apt to find ways to trick the system and cheat. Vote-by-Mail and provisional ballots are paper driven and therefore can be subject to meaningful audit. Ballots cast at precincts are not paper and are tallied by the counting tabulator without real or meaningful audit. Adopting the Risk Limiting Audit is a good first step. Policing third parties “dropping off” ballots or “filling out” ballots for voters is a much more challenging problem.
We all want full, fair, free and audited elections. As is demonstrated by North Carolina, California has the same dynamic in place for election fraud without true policing or audit processes in place. But we have a larger dilemma to resolve and soon. The 2020 election promises to bring out the most voters in the history of California elections. Without sound processes in place that not only streamline election process but also advance audit processes and police nefarious actors, we are destined to see outcomes here like North Carolina.
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Alan Geraci, is a former candidate for the 75th Assembly District and a consumer attorney.