California’s elections are already too vulnerable to fraud, and it’s about to get much, much worse.
Last weekend I looked in on the procedures at one of the early voting locations. In Los Angeles County, about 14,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to vote at 10 sites on the Saturday and Sunday before Tuesday’s election.
People waited for hours at the West Valley Regional Library in Reseda, where the line extended out of the building, into the parking lot and down the long driveway to the street.
Inside, registered voters filled out a form to request a vote-by-mail ballot. People who were not registered to vote could complete an application and cast a provisional ballot, a process known as “conditional voter registration.”
No identification was required for conditional voter registration. County employees said the registrations are verified before the provisional ballots are counted.
Verified how? Nobody knew, so they put me on the phone with a representative at the registrar’s office in Norwalk.
“That’s a great question,” was the answer. In fact, that was the answer to all my questions.
The representative asked me to put my questions in writing and said he’d get back to me with answers. While we wait, I’ll share the questions with you, and you can share them with your county board of supervisors, and maybe we’ll all find out together.
1. When voters cast ballots at an early-voting location, are they recorded as having voted by mail, in person at the polls or in a third category of “early voting?”
2. Are the rosters of voters at the Election Day polling places updated to reflect all the people who already voted at early voting locations? Could someone vote twice? If so, would it be detected or would both ballots be counted?
3. Does anything protect voters against the risk of voter impersonation? If someone impersonates a voter at an early-voting location, and then the genuine voter shows up on Election Day and asks to vote, the genuine voter would be handed a provisional ballot. The county’s LAVOTE.net website states, “Provisional ballots are counted after elections officials have confirmed the validity of the voter’s registration and that the voter did not already vote in the election.” Does this mean only the impersonator’s vote would be counted? Are there any circumstances under which both ballots would be counted? What recourse is available to a voter who finds out that his/her provisional ballot was not counted?
4. How is a conditional voter registration verified? Since no ID or proof of address is required, what information is verified and what is it checked against?
Currently, early voting and provisional voting require a voter to sign two documents — a form to request a vote-by-mail ballot or an application for voter registration, and then an outer envelope that has the ballot sealed inside.
But in 2020, Los Angeles will be one of the counties implementing a new system under the California Voter’s Choice Act. Polling places will be replaced with vote centers that will be open for 11 days of voting, and the limited safeguards of provisional voting are going away.
At the new vote centers, people will be able to register to vote, update their voter registration or get a replacement ballot. Their name and address will be checked against the voter registration database using an electronic system, and the new information will be entered right there.
“It eliminates provisional ballots because all of that will be able to be resolved on-site,” L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan said this week.
But anyone could walk into a vote center, give somebody else’s name, “update” that person’s party or address and vote. The impersonator’s ballot will slide into the box, and it will be counted. There’s no way to retrieve it later or know which ballot it is.
Suppose Russia wanted to sow chaos in our 2020 presidential election, as if we needed any help with that. A handful of provocateurs could visit the estimated 800 vote centers in L.A. County over a period of 11 days and mess up the voter file so badly that the entire election has to be repeated.
What’s to prevent that from happening?
“That’s a great question!”
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.
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