The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has launched an official investigation into an alleged fake voting center that appeared on Election Day in Westminster, California—but an attorney defending the site says it’s in full compliance with the law.
The makeshift voting center was located beneath canopies set up outside of Apogee International, a skin care clinic owned by Westminster city council candidate and current Vice Mayor Kimberly Ho. The site, at 15201 Beach Boulevard, is also used by Ho as her reelection headquarters.
Officials were notified of the allegations after a video posted to social media appeared to show two people carrying boxes of torn-up ballots to the back of the building. The people in the video wore shirts with the name of Michelle Steel, the current chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors who ran in the general election for the county’s 48th District seat in Congress.
Kimberly Edds, the DA’s public information officer, told The Epoch Times that investigators are “looking at everything.” She said the DA’s Office had not yet determined whether the incident falls under the guise of legal ballot harvesting.
“We have an obligation to ensure that there wasn’t any kind of improper activity occurring at that location,” Edds said. “We don’t know that it is—that’s part of what’s being investigated.”
Van Thai Tran, an attorney for Kimberly Ho’s campaign and former member of the California State Assembly, told The Epoch Times, “We welcome an investigation, because we know as a campaign office we are in full compliance with the law [and] electoral laws. And we do everything by the book.”
‘It’s Just Trash’
The video that called attention to the site was posted to Instagram by Ty Bailey, an organizer for the “OCForBlackLives” page, who reported the center to the office of the Orange County Registrar of Voters. The registrar’s office confirmed the location wasn’t an official voting center.
Another video shows investigators from the District Attorney’s Office on the scene, as well as a hand-drawn sign that says “Vote Here.” The video also shows campaign signs for several local candidates—including Steel, Ho, and Supervisor Andrew Do—in front of the parking lot, facing the street.
Bailey, who uploaded the videos, told The Epoch Times that he saw multiple people leaving the voting center wearing “obviously fake” stickers that said “I Voted,” before Westminster police arrived.
“People were going in with open ballots. And they were going into that location, which I’m guessing, to go vote,” Bailey said. “I had at least seen about 20 people go into that building with their official ballots in their hands, and all of them came out with stickers that said ‘I Voted’ on their shoulder.”
The video posted by Bailey on Instagram shows two individuals wearing Michelle Steel shirts walking with a box to the back of the building. When Bailey confronts them in the video, one of the individuals responds, “It’s just trash.” The video appears to show empty, torn ballot envelopes inside the box.
‘A False Controversy’
According to Van Thai Tran, the protesters who showed up at Ho’s campaign headquarters don’t understand how election law works, which is why they are mistaken with the “evidence” they found.
“It really is a false controversy staged and orchestrated by [Ho’s] opponents and the BLM/Antifa folks, and I say that with evidence and with reason,” Tran told The Epoch Times.
“The people who came onto the campaign premises were unannounced and uninvited, and they were very aggressive and accusatory with what happened, resulting in impeding voters who came into the campaign office for assistance, as well as interfering with the campaign volunteers and workers on-site on a day in which the election occurs, which is the most important day.”
Tran said that the investigation is more of an inquiry into what happened than anything else—and that, while it’s not over, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has said himself that they haven’t found anything illegal. He added that it’s a requirement that the DA’s Office has to investigate any complaints that come their way.
Tran refuted the claim, seen on the video, that torn-up ballots were discovered at the site.
“By law here … in the state of California, if you made a mistake on your original ballot … you can print out one if you have internet access, and if you have the knowledge to access the Registrar of Voters, you can actually print out your own ballot with your personal information, but it’s almost impossible to commit fraud though because every registered voter has a specific barcode,” Tran said.
A spokesperson for the Orange County Registrar of Voters confirmed to The Epoch Times that people are able to print their own ballots, called Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail.
“If a voter uses the Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail system to print a ballot, they would still have to return it in our return vote-by-mail envelope. So it still has the signature and everything for us to verify on the back end,” the spokesperson said.
“The envelope is what matters. And also the ballot, when they print it, it ties back to that voter record, and if we see that they have already voted, then that one that they printed wouldn’t count.”
Tran explained that voters that made mistakes on their original ballots could come to Ho’s office for assistance and have new ballots printed for them legally. They would then throw their original ballots in the trash, and there would be no voter fraud involved.
He said ballots found in the trash could also include old ballots from the March primaries and discarded absentee ballots thrown away by people who voted in person instead.
“Those are the ballots that these so-called protesters found in the trash can. And they think [Ho’s staff] were destroying them,” Tran said.
He said there was “absolutely no logical reason” for destroying ballots.
“The purpose of ballot harvesting is to collect as many ballots as possible, to make sure that … those voters who are your supporters who come into your campaign headquarters vote for you and drop off their ballots for you. … Why would you want to destroy ballots for voters who are coming into your campaign headquarters who are generally your supporters?”
Tran indicated that the campaign headquarters did give out “I Voted” stickers, but said there is absolutely nothing illegal that would prohibit them from doing so.
Edds said the investigation will likely take a few days to complete. She said the DA’s Office has people “working around the clock,” and will determine whether to file charges or not following the conclusion of the investigation and a legal review.
No evidence of ballots being discarded had yet been discovered, Edds told The Epoch Times earlier. The registrar’s spokesperson confirmed that only empty ballot envelopes had been found so far.
The spokesperson for the Orange County Registrar of Voters relayed a statement to The Epoch Times from Registrar Neal Kelley.
“There’s an ongoing investigation, and we’re working with the District Attorney’s office,” Kelley said through the spokesperson.
Unofficial results for Orange County show Kimberly Ho with a significant lead over her opponent Tai Do for Westminster’s District 3 seat on the city council. As of Nov. 5, Ho had received 5,433 votes, or 64 percent, to Do’s 3,044 votes, or 36 percent.