SANTA ANA, Calif.—With Nov. 3 quickly approaching, state and county officials are banking on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, poll watchers, envelope codes, and signature verification to ensure a fair election, they said at an Oct. 5 press conference.
Standing in front of two semi-trucks—which are slated to deliver 1.7 million ballots to the U.S. Postal Service in Orange County—California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said “the people deserve the truth” about mail-in ballots.
“Despite the attacks against vote-by-mail or how California conducts elections … voters can trust the integrity of elections in the state of California,” Padilla told the audience gathered at the county registrar’s office in Santa Ana.
Padilla, a Democrat who endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in this year’s race, launched a campaign in July encouraging Californians to vote by mail. President Donald Trump and other Republicans have been critical of mail-in voting, citing instances of misplaced ballots across the country and concerns over ballot harvesting.
Padilla has announced a remote observation system for those who want to watch the ballot processing live, in real time. California Election Laws grant voters the right to observe the election process, as long as it does not disrupt poll officials from doing their jobs.
He said that while election observation is permitted, “intimidation of voters and harassing voters is not.”
“There’s been more recent chatter about these poll watchers again, without knowing exactly what their motivations are. So we want to make it abundantly clear today: Election observation is allowed in California, as part of the transparency of the process,” he said.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said county officials would stringently enforce the law regarding voter fraud.
“We are going to fight to protect an open and fair and transparent election,” Spitzer said. He added that voter fraud is a felony charge, punishable by up to four years in prison.
He urged any citizen who suspects someone of engaging in voter fraud to call the district attorney’s office.
Spitzer said this election is different from any other due to COVID-19. Every registered Orange County voter will receive a ballot, there will be longer periods of time for ballot returns, and the county has added new drop-off boxes, which will remain open until Nov. 3.
He said that though the secretary of state may have been involved in “partisan politics or nonpartisan politics, he knows his job.”
“And I know my job,” Spitzer said. “And our job is to protect the vote—let people vote in a fair, open, and free society—and not take sides.”
Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley told The Epoch Times that though there have been instances of voter fraud in the past, they haven’t been widespread.
“We haven’t really found a systemic issue of voting fraud through the mail,” Kelley said.
“We have had instances where spouses have signed their husband or wife’s ballot, because they passed away in between. That’s happened.”
According to Kelley, who’s been working with the registrar for 17 years, the margin of error is very miniscule in Orange County.
“As the secretary pointed out, the envelope is tied to the voter, and that barcode is tied to the envelope. It has to be that individual returning it, and if somebody is taking that envelope and making an attempt to forge it, then we have detection methods in place where we can stop that,” he said.
In order to minimize the risk of fraud, Padilla released an emergency memorandum on Sept. 28 that mandated 14 new voting regulations on ballot processing and signature verification, effective immediately and lasting through at least July 28, 2021.
“The regulations provide guidance for uniform ballot processing and ballot counting,” according to the memorandum.
But not all agree with the action. Election Integrity Project California, a watchdog group, said in a press release that Padilla’s regulations are outside of the “purview of the executive branch of government because they supersede or countermand what is codified in California’s Elections Code.”
“Any such change may only be sanctioned by an act of the state legislature, not simply declared by executive edict,” the press release read.
At the press conference, county officials said they have an online system that marks when someone votes. Any unused ballots by that same voter will become void once their vote has been cast.
For instructions on how to vote in Orange County, visit OCVote.com