GOP congressmember decries mail-in ballot ‘flaws’ after 104 Southern California votes aren’t counted

Rep. Ken Calvert wants postal service to explain why primary ballots arrived late

“Flaws in the mail-in ballot system” led to at least 104 ballots from California’s March 5 primary going uncounted though they were postmarked on or before Election Day, a Southern California congressmember said.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, sent a letter this week to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy seeking answers as to why the ballots sent to voters from Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties arrived too late, as first reported by the Southern California News Group.

“The fact that these voters were denied their ability to exercise their constitutional duty due to flaws in the mail-in ballot system is shocking,” Calvert, who represents parts of Riverside County, said in a news release.

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“In American elections, it’s not hyperbole to say every vote matters — it’s a fundamental component of our democracy. There’s no question that the increased role of mail-in ballots has put the (U.S. Postal Service) in a more critical position in our election process. Americans must have confidence that the USPS is up to the task of supporting our democracy.”

Duke Gonzales, a postal service spokesperson, relayed a statement from postal service headquarters acknowledging receipt of Calvert’s May 6 letter.

“We will respond directly to the congressman,” the statement said.

Under California law, mail-in ballots are sent to every registered voter. Legally, ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received by a county registrar of voters up to seven days after an election must be counted.

According to Riverside County, 31 mail-in ballots postmarked on time arrived eight days after the election or later. They included “a few military ballots,” Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco told Riverside County supervisors in April.

In Orange County, 70 postmarked-on-time ballots arrived too late to be counted, with 61 arriving March 13, three arriving March 14 and six arriving March 15, according to that county’s registrar.

In San Bernardino County, three ballots arrived between March 13 and March 15 that were postmarked on Election Day.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

At least 104 Southern California voters mailed their ballots on time. They weren’t counted

On or before the March 5 primary, 104 voters in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties mailed their ballots.

Legally, those ballots should have been counted, barring a problem like a ballot envelope signature not matching what’s on file.

But they weren’t tallied because registrars of voters in these counties received the ballots after March 12 — the final day that on-time mail-in ballots could be accepted.

While Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties processed more than 3 million primary votes, ballots postmarked on time but arriving too late — however few — pose a challenge for California elections that rely heavily on ballots mailed to every registered voter.

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“While this amount may not make any difference in the election results, it certainly makes a difference to the integrity of the process,” Robert Tyler of the Murrieta-based law firm Advocates For Faith & Freedom said via email.

In a Thursday, April 4, letter, Tyler demanded that Riverside County halt certification of its primary results on the belief that 5,000 ballots remained to be counted. Those ballots weren’t valid because they were postmarked after Election Day, according to Riverside County Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco.

Chapman University political science professor Fred Smoller said: “All election procedures have their shortcomings. I hope this one gets fixed prior to the next election.”

Hoping to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, California starting in 2020 required all registered voters, whether or not they voted by mail, to get a mail-in ballot to use if they so choose.

By law, ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received up to seven days after the election must be counted. It’s one reason why California election results take days, if not weeks, to be finalized.

Most Californians vote by mail, with 88% mailing in their ballots for the 2022 general election, according to the secretary of state.

According to Riverside County, 31 mail-in ballots postmarked on time arrived eight days after the election or later.

In Orange County, 70 postmarked-on-time ballots arrived too late to be counted, with 61 arriving March 13, three arriving March 14 and six arriving March 15, according to that county’s registrar.

In San Bernardino County, three ballots arrived between March 13 and March 15 that were postmarked on Election Day, according to elections office spokesperson Melissa Eickman. Information for similar ballots in Los Angeles County was not available as of Monday afternoon, April 8.

Officials in Orange and Riverside counties said they weren’t sure why the ballots arrived late.

“We can only process ballots as they arrive,” Riverside County registrar spokesperson Elizabeth Florer said via a text message. “We cannot speculate as to why a ballot may take longer to arrive in our office.”

U.S. Postal Service spokesperson Duke Gonzales did not provide an explanation for why the ballots arrived late.

In an emailed statement, he said the service “is committed to the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail” and is “committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system.”

Gonzales also shared election mail reports from 2020 and 2022. According to those reports, 99.89% of 2020 ballots and 99.93% of 2022 ballots nationwide were delivered within seven days.

“We employ a robust and proven process to ensure proper handling and delivery of all Election Mail, including ballots,” Gonzales said.

California allows voters to track their ballots online to ensure they are received and counted and receive texts or emails when their ballot status changes. Voters can sign up for the service at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov.

Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who is part of an ad hoc committee studying election issues in her county, said via email that she was concerned about the late-arriving ballots.

“I plan to ask the registrar of voters staff to work with the U.S. Postal Service to find solutions so this does not happen in future elections,” Spiegel said via email.

Her colleague, Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, said via email that the county “is also at the mercy of the Postal Service to deliver the ballots within the legal (counting) window.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California Lawmakers Vote to Limit When Local Election Officials Can Count Ballots By Hand

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Friday voted to limit when local governments can count election ballots by hand, a move aimed at a rural Northern California county that canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems amid unfounded allegations of fraud pushed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his allies.

Shasta County’s board of supervisors, which is controlled by a conservative majority, voted in January to get rid of the voting machines it used to tabulate hand-marked ballots for its roughly 111,000 registered voters. County supervisors said there was a loss of public confidence in the machines from Dominion Voting Systems, a company at the center of discredited conspiracy theories since the 2020 presidential election.

At the time, leaders did not have a plan for how the county would conduct future elections, including the March 2024 Republican presidential primary in delegate-rich California that could be key in deciding who wins the GOP nomination. The county had been preparing to count ballots by hand for its next election on Nov. 7, 2023, to fill seats on the school board and fire district, and decide the fate of two ballot measures.

On Friday, the California Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, essentially voted to stop Shasta County officials from using a hand count to tally votes. The bill, which was approved by two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers, would only allow hand counts by local election officials under narrow circumstances. The exceptions are for regularly scheduled elections with fewer than 1,000 eligible registered voters and special elections where there are fewer than 5,000 eligible voters.

“Hand counts are complex, imprecise, expensive and resource intensive,” said Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who authored the bill and is a former local election official. “Research has consistently shown that humans are poor at completing rote, repetitive tasks.”

The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The fight over voting machines has divided the Shasta County, a mostly rural area where the largest city is Redding with a population of 93,000 people.

Should Newsom sign the bill, County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen said the county has the equipment it needs to tabulate votes in upcoming elections. Despite the county getting rid of its Dominion voting machines, local leaders gave her permission to purchase equipment needed to comply with federal laws for voters with disabilities. The system that was purchased, made by Hart InterCivic, includes scanners capable of tabulating votes electronically.

Darling Allen said in an email she hopes Newsom signs it, calling it a “commonsense protection for all California voters.”

Shasta County Board of Supervisors chair Patrick Henry Jones said Friday the county would sue to block the bill should Newsom sign it. He said state officials “cannot guarantee that these machines haven’t been manipulated.”

“The state is now attempting to block us from being able to have a free and fair election without any outside influence,” he said.

Pellerin said the argument that voting systems are easily hacked “is a fallacy.”

“It is illegal for any part of a voting system to be connected to the internet at any time, and no part of the voting system is permitted to receive or transmit wireless communications or wireless data transfers,” she said, adding that California’s election standards are some of the most strict voting system standards in the country.

Trump and his allies have been pushing county officials across the country to embrace hand counts amid conspiracy theories surrounding voting equipment, particularly those manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems. But few counties have agreed to do so. Last month, Mohave County in northwestern Arizona rejected a plan to hand-count ballots because it would have cost $1.1 million.

Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News following the 2020 presidential election, alleging the news agency damaged its reputation by amplifying conspiracy theories that the company’s voting machines had rigged the election in favor of Democratic President Joe Biden. In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems nearly $800 million to settle the lawsuit. The judge in the case found it was “CRYSTAL clear” that none of the accusations about Dominion’s machines was true.

While hand counts of ballots occur in some parts of the United States, this typically happens in small jurisdictions with small numbers of registered voters. Hand counts, however, are commonly used as part of post-election tests to check that machines are counting ballots correctly, but only a small portion of the ballots are counted manually.

Election experts argue it’s unrealistic to think officials in large jurisdictions, with tens or hundreds of thousands of voters, could count all their ballots by hand and report results quickly given that ballots often include dozens of races.

As one example, Cobb County, Georgia, performed a hand tally ordered by the state after the 2020 election. It took hundreds of people five days to count just the votes for president on roughly 397,000 ballots, according to local election officials. To count every race on each ballot using the same procedures, one official estimated it would have taken 100 days.

“Doing something like a full hand count in a sizeable jurisdiction is not the way to put those conspiracy theories to rest,” said Gowri Ramachandran, deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s Law School. “It’s a way to waste a lot of money and potentially create chaos.”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Hundreds of voter guides found in Tower District dumpster, Fresno election officials say

Hundreds of Fresno County voter guides were recovered Friday from a Tower District recycling dumpster, election officials reported. The Fresno County Registrar of Voter’s office was notified shortly before 4 p.m. Friday that about 200 copies of county voter information guides and four copies of state voter guides were found in the recycling dumpster. No ballots were discarded, the registrar’s office said.

The voter guides were properly mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. Elections officials were working to determine which voters were affected to quickly send new copies of the Fresno County voter guides in the coming days. The Registrar of Voters is working with local, state and federal officials to determine how the voting materials ended up in the dumpster and to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

The Fresno County incident comes on the heels of ballot errors discovered in Merced County. There, 40ballots in the cities of Merced, Los Banos and Gustine were missing certain local races or included incorrect candidates. The Merced County Elections Office said the errors occurred because of mapping issues after new district lines were drawn earlier this year. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Click here to read the full article at the FresnoBee

Woman Finds Box of Mail-in Ballots on East Hollywood Sidewalk; LA County Registrar Investigating

The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office and the United States Postal Service are investigating after 104 ballots were found unopened on the sidewalk in East Hollywood.

The ballots were found by Christina Repaci, who was walking her dog Saturday evening.

“I turned the corner and I just saw this box of envelopes, and it was a USPS box. I picked some envelopes up and I saw they were ballots,” said Repaci.

Repaci said she took them home for safekeeping while trying to figure out what to do next. She sent videos of the ballots to popular social media accounts to share the content and ask for guidance on next steps. Repaci said she called several politicians and the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

“I actually called the Sheriff’s Department. I couldn’t get through, so I emailed them,” she said. “I got an email back from a deputy basically in so many words saying it wasn’t their problem, and to contact the USPS.”

SUGGESTED: California primary election 2022: What to know

Repaci said after much back and forth, the LA County Registrar’s Office got in contact with her about picking up the ballots. Registrar Dean Logan personally drove to pick up the ballots.

“He (Logan) picked them up. I made sure he was legit. He gave me a card, and took a photo of the box,” she said.

Repaci described the process as “stressful.”

“It was so much stress and for just one person to get back to me. What do I do here? Now if it happens to someone else, they don’t know what to do. They’ll just put them in a dumpster or throw them in the trash. I just don’t think it should have been this hard to figure out what to do with legal ballots. This is a country of freedom and our votes should matter and something like this should never happen,” said Repaci. 

The LA County Registrar’s Office released a statement:

“Our office was notified over the weekend of a mail tray found containing approximately 104 unopened, outbound Vote by Mail ballots and additional mail pieces. Thanks to the cooperation of the person who found the ballots, we were able to quickly respond and coordinate the secure pickup of the ballots. We have reissued new ballots to the impacted voters. Early signs indicate that this was an incident of mail theft and not a directed attempt at disrupting the election. We are cooperating with the United States Postal Service and law enforcement to investigate.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

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