A bill to allow the use of non-provisional ballots for conditional same-day voter registration is being touted as necessary “for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their registration before an election.”
It remains to be seen but California could use a fix to the state’s ballot harvesting issue which arose in the 2018 General Election.
AB 693 by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Los Altos), says the bill is an important safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their registration before an election. “Those who register conditionally are given a provisional ballot, which is counted after an elections official has confirmed the voter’s eligibility,” bill analysis says. Those eligibility requirements are:
a) Verify that the registrant is deemed eligible to vote;
b) Verify that the registrant has not voted in the state in that election;
c) Verify that the registrant has not been included on a roster for that election in another county in the state that is not conducting elections under the California Voter’s Choice Act (CVCA), as specified; and,
d) Update the voter’s record to indicate that the voter has voted in that election.
Berman said when Californians have to cast a provisional ballot and then wonder when and if it will be counted, “It’s not a great experience for voters.”
What Changed in California Voting?
Weeks after election night November 6, 2018, voters watched as double-digit leads in many key California House races disappeared as additional ballots were found and recorded – finalizing one month later.
Democrats credited the 2016 law legalizing ballot-harvesting in California with their flipping Republican House seats in Orange County, allowing them to win back control of the House. “In Orange County, an estimated 250,000 harvested ballots were reportedly dropped off on Election Day alone. County Republican Chairman Fred Whitaker claimed the 2016 law ‘directly caused the switch from being ahead on election night to losing two weeks later,’” the Federalist reported.
The 2016 law, Senate Bill 450 by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) allows voter ballots to be harvested and counted for 30 days following the election, among a myriad of other perks.
The Election Integrity Project California recently submitted a report to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, Voting Section and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “requesting an immediate investigation into California’s continued election system failures.”
The report, Failures in California’s 2018 Midterm Election Demand Serious Investigation, documents
EIPCA has covered election irregularities and integrity issues since 2010, and compiled a significant database California election incidents.
Election Integrity Project California is opposed to AB 693, and says it would facilitate erroneous registrations and ensure that ineligible votes would be cast and counted.
When a registrant applies to vote, the affidavit must be verified not only for duplication but also for legitimacy of provided ID and domicile. “AB 693 would provide for instant acceptance of an applicant based solely upon whether or not that applicant is reflected on VoteCal, California’s statewide voter database,” EIPCA said in its opposition statement. “This is clearly insufficient verification of an applicant’s eligibility to vote. The process put in place for voter registration cannot be safely short-cut or subverted without incalculable and irreparable damage to the integrity of California’s elections…. ALL qualified registrants deserve to cast a vote and have it counted. They also deserve to vote within a system that protects their vote from being diluted by hastily accepted votes that may not be legitimate. Last minute registrants must be subject to the same level of scrutiny as all others, and until all proper procedure.”
The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, wrote in a letter of support to a prior version of this bill: “Under the current law ballots that are cast by conditional voter registrants are reviewed and adjudicated during the canvass period along with the provisional ballots that are cast on Election Day. A large number of these conditional voter registrants are new voters to California or have not voted by mail in their previous county. These voters can have their registration and conditional ballot immediately adjudicated at the Elections Office, Vote Center, or satellite office, allowing it to be included in the election night results instead of having to wait until the canvass period. This results in a better voting experience for the voter and helps reduce the number of conditional voter registration ballots being reviewed post election allowing counties to devote these resources to other areas of the canvass.”
A member of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials at the hearing assured committee members that the same system in his Placer County office is used to determine the eligibility of voters. “What if that data is wrong?” asked Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Marysville). Gallagher brought up the issue with the Department of Motor Vehicles registering residents to vote who are ineligible. Automatic DMV voter registration, known as the state’s New Motor Voter Program, was launched just before the June 2018 primary. It automatically mis-registered 23,000 people, including many illegal aliens.
“In the DMV instance, we go to those lists and cancel them,” the election clerk said. “The discrepancies we are aware of have been taken care of.”
Berman said his bill will not change the data base, and that it is the same process elections officials currently use 20 to 25 days after election day. He said his bill will allow more voters to have their vote authentically counted the day of the election. “There’s a lot of distrust around the provisional ballot system,” Berman added.
Calls and emails to Assemblyman Berman’s office for background information on the bill were not returned.
AB 693 passed out of the committee.