Many residents in California are voting twice and it’s time for Secretary of State Alex Padilla to stop ignoring the problem. This flaw in their system has been an issue for years and the integrity of our elections is at stake.
The problem, first brought to light by Contra Costa election officials, enables Californians who request mail-in ballots to also vote at the polls. In a July 2016 editorial we called on Padilla to solve the problem. It needs a simple fix. But he has done nothing.
The vulnerability stems from our bifurcated election system which gives voters the choice of casting ballots by mail or at the polls, and the option to toggle between the two.
Padilla has disregarded a procedural flaw that, if left uncorrected, will continue to leave the election systems for about half the state’s voters vulnerable.
To better understand the issue, Mercury News gives an example of a voter who registered with no party preference and typically votes by mail…
After Fred’s presidential nonpartisan primary ballot arrives, he opts to instead vote in the Democratic primary and requests that the elections office mail him a replacement partisan ballot.
Fred now has two mail-in ballots. As Election Day nears, he fills out the Democratic ballot and mails it in. On Election Day, he takes the original non-partisan ballot to his neighborhood polling location and exchanges it for another Democratic ballot, which he also casts.
The election workers at the polls have no way of knowing that he has already voted. Elections officials will eventually crosscheck the list of Election Day voters with those who mailed in ballots and determine that Fred voted twice. But by then both ballots will have been co-mingled with all the others and counted – and there’s no way to trace back Fred’s.
This scenario keeps happening, but Secretary of State Alex Padilla continues to allow voters to cast two ballots. Here is one solution…
The solution: Fred’s Election Day ballot should be set aside in a sealed envelope as a “provisional ballot,” to be counted only if election officials later verify that he hasn’t already voted.
However, officials from Padilla’s office insist that would violate state law. Indeed, a provision in the Elections Code requires Fred to be able to cast a nonprovisional ballot if he surrenders his vote-by-mail ballot.
But the law doesn’t account for the problem when someone like Fred receives multiple vote-by-mail ballots, for reasons such as exchanging for a partisan ballot, moving or changing party registration.
Clearly, Californians have a real problem on their hands when election officials discovered around 200 instances of double-voting in the 2016 presidential primary – and that's just in two counties alone.
Every citizen’s vote should count and that means preventing voter fraud. The Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla has a responsibility to step up and close the loophole of double-voting in California.