California has some of the worst voter integrity in the country, but one candidate believes he can turn that situation around.
Mark Meuser, a constitution and election law attorney, is running as a Republican for California secretary of state. He has promised that if he is elected, Californians will have much cleaner voter rolls and a more assured election process.
The problems with the voter rolls were dramatized by lawsuits filed in December 2017 by the organizations Judicial Watch and Election Integrity Project California, along with several individuals who are lawfully registered voters in California, against the State of California as well as Los Angeles County.
Based on information published by Judicial Watch, 11 of California’s 58 counties have registration rates greater than 100 percent of citizens who are eligible by age. Los Angeles County’s registration rate is 144 percent of its adult citizen population, and California’s registration rate is about 101 percent of its citizens who are eligible by age.
The lawsuits were also filed because California has the highest rate of inactive registrations of any state in the country, and Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.
Meuser said he originally thought of running for secretary of state because many of his fellow attorneys believe that the general public in California needed an election law attorney to articulate the complicated issues facing California’s election process. They believe that Meuser could do the job, he said.
As an election law attorney, Meuser helped with the recount efforts in Michigan and Wisconsin in the 2016 presidential election.
“I was one of the first attorneys who were there for the recounts. Over the course of eight days, I was in two different states, six different counties, just watching and observing the process, making sure that every legal vote cast was counted,” Meuser said.
Meuser believes that the reason there have been so many problems in the California elections is that the current secretary of state is not doing his job, causing the state to be sued by Judicial Watch.
While a voter roll that is 100 percent clean may be a high bar to reach because of the number of factors that could affect the election process, Meuser believes that a secretary of state who diligently works with county-level voter registration offices will definitely make a big difference when it comes to ensuring a fair and honest election in California.
Meuser used three counties in Southern California as examples to explain how much could be achieved by the county-level voter registration offices. While Los Angeles County has a 144 percent voter registration rate and San Diego County has a 138 percent rate, between these two counties is Orange County with only an 87 percent rate. This discrepancy could indicate that the public employees in the voter registration office of Orange County have done a better job than those in the two adjacent counties.
A study by Harvard and Sydney Universities, published in January 2017, indicated that the election integrity in the United States ranked last out of all 28 democracies of the Western world.
Meuser said that a survey by the Pew Research Center that measured all 50 U.S. states determined that California had the second worst elections in the country.
Part of the problem with California’s elections involves how military votes are handled.
The same Pew study showed that the state of Virginia had 86 percent of its military votes returned, while California only had 16 percent.
Meuser talked to many military personnel and asked them for the stories about their votes. Many of them simply answered that they had never received their ballots.
In order to ensure security and fairness in the elections, many states throughout the country have adopted the voter ID policy in the last decade. However, California does not yet require voter ID on election days.
A cursory investigation conducted by CBS in November 2016 found that 280 people in California seemed to have voted after they died. Some people who had died almost 40 years ago were still registered as voters.
“For the last 20 years, the Democratic Party has been in charge, and generally the Democratic Party is not interested in voter ID,” said Meuser.
Judge Steven Bailey, the Republican candidate running for California attorney general, said: “We are going to investigate it. When I am elected in January 2019, it will be one of the first things we are going to do, to find out how L.A. County can have 144 percent voter registration.”
When Meuser was asked how he would handle the job differently if elected, he answered: “As the Secretary of State, you are responsible for making sure you have fair elections across the state. For the counties that are not doing their jobs, it is perfect for the secretary of state to say: you need to do your job, and if you don’t do your job, I, as the secretary of state, am going to take over and make sure your county is following the law of California.”
Meuser is a native Californian and former small business owner whose favorite sport is Ironman, which combines long-distance swimming, biking, and marathon running. Whether he wins the election or continues with his career as an election attorney, he is likely to face an uphill battle in a state with a huge immigrant population.
Nevertheless, when looking at Meuser’s eyes, one can see the determination of an Ironman contestant. He believes he will achieve his goal.