Watchdog Group Says Ensuring Integrity in California’s Elections Crucial for 2020

May 6, 2019 Updated: May 6, 2019

As the most populous state with the largest congressional representation, California also has the most voters in the nation. This allows the state to have a powerful hand in national elections.

During the last decade, the Golden State has gradually lowered the threshold for voters to register and get their ballots to the ballot box. Compounding on the Motor Voter Act of 1993 that allowed states to register voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), former Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the subsequent “New Motor Voter Act” of 2015, which automatically registers citizens to vote when visiting the DMV.

Two years earlier in 2013, the state passed AB 60, which grants illegal aliens the right to driver’s licenses. With these two laws in effect, it led to concerns that illegal immigrants could accidentally be registered to vote automatically. This was followed by the introduction of legal ballot harvesting with AB1921 in 2016. Previously, only a family member or someone living in the same household was permitted to drop off ballots for another voter, but AB1921 allows anyone to collect and return ballots to a voting precinct.

Irregularities in 2018’s elections in California continue to surface. Various groups across the state are moving to have these questionable occurrences investigated. One of these groups, the Election Integrity Project, an election monitoring organization founded in 2010, released a report covering eight counties that cited the gross irregularities that took place in the 2018 midterms in California.

The report, compiled by election observers across the state revealed that thousands of vote-by-mail (VBM) voters didn’t receive their ballots. State law disallows voters from voting in person if they have registered vote by mail, in order to avoid double voting. If they wish to vote in person, they must surrender their VBM ballot to election officials. Due to these voters not having received their VBM ballots, they were forced to vote provisionally.

Due to California’s 2015 New Motor Voter Act, thousands of voters across the state had their voter status changed from poll voter to VBM without their knowledge of consent. This was a result of the Department of Motor Vehicles enacting automatic voter registration for voters across the state.

It was also reported that, as a result of the number of voters forced to vote provisionally, there was a 222 percent increase in provisional ballots than the previous midterm in 2014.

The Epoch Times spoke with Ellen Swensen, chief analyst of the Election Integrity Project, on the report’s findings and how to address these issues for 2020.

When asked about the direct cause of the irregularities, Swensen said, “When we speak about irregularities, we’re talking about people who didn’t receive their ballot. In that case, we do not know what happened. We questioned the counties involved in the report and only one county, San Bernardino, got back to us and told us there was a problem. Other counties either did not respond or said that there was no problem.”

In San Bernardino County, Swenson explained that the county office had a vendor glitch and about 1,000 voters requested a vote by mail close to the deadline of Oct. 30.

“Roughly 1,000 ballots that were requested late did not go out. Around 40 percent of those people came to the polls and voted instead, and 60 percent didn’t vote at all,” she said.

“That shows you the magnitude of the problem when someone expecting a vote-by mail-ballot doesn’t get one. It could lead to a large number of people not showing up.”

Swensen pointed out that a huge reason why people had their ballots switched from standard to vote by mail was due to DMV registration system issues. “We know the DMV has a lot of problems with the registration system. [They are switching] people over to vote by mail without their knowledge,” she said.

Swensen also mentioned that there is no way to verify someone’s legal status via voter rolls, so many people still have concerns regarding whether AB 60, coupled with the 2015 Motor Voter Act, may inadvertently register an illegal alien to vote.

Ballot harvesting has also proven to severely complicate the voter rolls, according to Swensen. “We are very concerned about the ‘legal’ ability for anyone to go pick up ballots. We worry about security. That chain between the voter and the registrar is broken.”

Swensen also expressed concern that voters could also be coerced or bribed and is especially concerned since, starting in 2020, more than 50 percent of voters will be automatically signed up for vote-by-mail.

“A lot of counties are coming on board this new ‘voter center’ model, including L.A. and Orange County.”

In January, the Election Integrity Project and Judicial Watch, a legal watchdog organization, won a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and the state of California that would mandate as many as 1.5 million inactive voters be removed from the voter rolls.

An expansion on this move is what the Election Integrity Project is hoping to enact for the 2020 elections. “We think the secretary of state should stop the DMV voter registration, at least until such time that the software glitches are fixed,” Swensen said.

“We also need to look into the reason why so many people across the state did not receive their ballots. Was there a massive systemic problem? Were there security violations? These are the questions that need to be answered because our state is moving fast to become 100 percent vote-by-mail.”

“If you combine people relying on vote-by-mail and they don’t get their ballot with ballot harvesting, it’s going to be a fiasco.”

Both the Election Integrity Project and Judicial Watch are expected to launch further legal efforts to address the election and registration irregularities in the state.