The Globe reported Sunday that California Secretary of State Shirley Weber may have invented a “print-your-own ballot from home” program just in time for the September 14th recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom through the Remote Accessible Vote by Mail (RAVBM) system. We asked several questions:
- Was this new or has this program been around but not promoted – until now?
- Can you print out more than one ballot?
- How are these verified and by whom?
- Why can’t these ballots be dropped off?
- Why must they be mailed?
- What could possibly go wrong?
Did California invent an audit-proof way to steal elections?
Because it was Sunday, we weren’t able to get anyone from the Secretary of State’s office on the phone to speak about this program, or any county Registrar of Elections employees either.
The Globe spoke with Constitutional and Elections Attorney Mark Meuser Monday and asked several of the questions which had come up since the article published.
We discovered that the original Remote Accessible Vote by Mail (RAVBM) system was created to assist those who are disabled and confined to home or who may have difficulties getting to a polling station, which Attorney Meuser confirmed.
However, our research on the SOS website found that the program no longer specified that the program was limited to the disabled.
Attorney Meuser said the program was indeed used by the disabled, and primarily by only a handful of people each election who needed the different voting access.
But Meuser said, it now appears this is a new loophole in California’s ballot harvesting program, and we have the Legislature to thank for this.
RedState’s Jen Van Laar addressed this in an article Monday:
Due to a gut-and-amend bill hastily passed by the Democrat supermajority in June 2020. This legislative workaround was necessary because Newsom had had his Executive Order-loving wings clipped by a Sutter County Superior Court judge last fall after a lawsuit challenging those orders was brought by two Republican Assembly Members: Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher.
Meuser said the political ramifications could be troublesome legally. Imagine if a ballot harvester comes to your door and offers to take and turn in your ballot for you. You tell the ballot harvester that you don’t have it anymore, or threw it out. So the ballot harvester can now tell you that you can print a new ballot right off of your computer.
Where Meuser says this gets sticky is when we mail back our ballots in the official voter envelope, it comes with a bar code that matches up with your voter registration, and you sign the envelope. The “print-your-own ballot from home” won’t come with an official county voter registrar envelope, and the issue is it will create a huge headache for all Registrars of Voters in the state.
Meuser said when the Registrar of Voters receives your home-printed ballot in a plain envelops, she will have to either contact you and offer to send out a new official ballot/envelope, which you can fill out, sign and mail in, or drop off at the ROV office. Or, because your “print-your-own ballot from home” can’t be verified and certified, it could be discarded.
Last October, I visited Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office to learn what happens after a mail-in ballot is dropped off. What I witnessed was a sophisticated production process replete with checks and double checks.
The Registrar of Voter (ROV) scans the ballots received into the computer system, and then voter signatures on the envelope are matched to the voter’s signature in the county elections system. If the operator feels the signatures don’t match, the voter is mailed a new signature page, which they fill out and send back. If there is no signature to verify, or a return address included, what then other than discarding the ballot?
As Meuser explained, even if you have the original envelope but not your original ballot because your dog ate it, and you print a new ballot off of the computer and return it to the county Registrar of Voters, they then have to pull employees from their regular election duties to go through the verification process so the machines can properly count it, and create a ballot on their system.
“As we all know the ballots that our votes are on are different than the printer paper we purchase at the office store,” Meuser said. “It appears that the SOS is creating a program that is creating a lot more work for all county Registrars of Voters making it even more difficult for them to accurately produce election results on election night. California is already a joke in the nation when it comes to counting our ballots, and this will only prolong the issue.”
“The people of California don’t want to wait 4 weeks to find out who won an election,” Meuser said. “This new process by the California Democratic party will only result in it taking longer for all the ballots to be counted in California.”
Deep inside of the elections offices is a production center which resembles the production process in a printing plant. Operators feed ballot return envelopes in stacks into a large machine which scans them, and separates by batches and precincts. Other operators act as auditors along the way. And there are phone banks of employees taking calls about the process.
There are employees in teams of two who analyze the actual ballot for any votes “X’d” out as a mistake, looking for voter intent. If they cannot make out the voter intent, it is left blank.
And all of these operations are monitored by “Big Brother” – cameras in every room, from several angles.
“The Democratic party of California is so backwards that they have now changed the rules so that they can print ballots on their own printers,” Meuser said on his website after we talked. “What is going to stop a ballot harvesters from printing up thousands of ballots, pre marking them with the political parties choices. The ballot harvester can then go to the voters house and tell them that rather than fill out the ballot that the state mailed to them, all they would have to do is sign a blank envelope and the ballot harvester will deliver the ballot. As long as the signature matches the data base, the registrar of voters will have no idea that the ballot was not voted by the assigned voter.”
Meuser said there is no guidance coming from the Secretary of State to the registrars. He said he verified this with a couple of county Registrars of Voters who said they’ve not received any procedural guidance from the Secretary of State. This could mean with 58 counties, there may be 58 procedures.
The Globe will continue to update this, but we still want to know, Did California invent an audit-proof way to steal elections?