By Lang Waters
On November 13, 2016, a man by the name of Gregg Phillips of VoteStand sent this tweet: “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens. We are joining @TrueTheVote to initiate legal action.”
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Gregg Phillips and VoteStand has to date not produced a shred of evidence to support the claim of widespread voter fraud. Nor has any other group. Nor has the legal action Phillips mentioned been initiated.
The unsubstantiated claim continued to percolate on conspiracy theory sites and social media until on Jan. 27, 2017 Trump caught the fever and tweeted: “Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!”.
Republican law makers Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and John McCain, even Trump’s own lawyer, made statements at the time that they did not believe the President’s assertion. In spite of election officials around the country disagreeing with the claim, in spite of numerous previous studies that indicate statistically significant voter fraud is not an issue in US elections (including a five year study during the Bush administration — https://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/washington/12fraud.html), the President setup the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate voter fraud perpetrated by non-citizen voters, aka the Kobach Commission. The commission quietly imploded without discovering any voter fraud.
How secure are our local elections in Nevada County? Nevada County Registrar Gregory Diaz sat down with me in September and spoke to that question directly. When asked if he believes claims about widespread voter fraud he disagreed, but he added that he could speak only for Nevada County. Diaz went on to describe aspects of the 2016 Voters Choice Act and how elections work in Nevada County.
Operationally it’s required that at least two people are present at all times with the ballots. Physically, and most important, elections in Nevada County produce a physical, paper ballot trail. The physical ballots can be used for recounts.
A very small percentage of Nevada County voters, around 1%, are not able to use a paper ballot e.g. people with certain disabilities. These people may avail themselves of an electronic machine to cast their vote. In such cases a VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) device is used. A VVPAT produces a paper record of the vote and acts as an independent verification of the electronic machine. The vast majority of voters, 99%, complete a paper ballot. The fact that we utilize paper ballots is one tremendous advantage that California has when it comes to secure elections. We need not worry about voting machines being hacked. What about the paper ballots?
- A voter registration card must be signed. You must be a citizen to sign the card.
- The signature collected at the poll or on the mailed in ballot is compared to the signature on the voter registration card.
- The first pass of verification of signatures on ballots is done by a machine. About 1/6th of the ballots are kicked out for manual review. Sometimes handwriting changes over decades, for example a broken hand, age etc. The Registrar’s office runs down every single vote kicked back, going so far as to make phone calls. To date every kicked back vote has been cleared, not a single fraudulent vote has been uncovered in Nevada County during the tenure of Diaz.
- The Registrar’s office is required by law to do a 1% audit of submitted ballots in order to confirm their veracity.
California elections are the most complicated in the nation. In Nevada County alone there are 54 different versions of the ballot, called “ballot styles”, specific to where a person lives. Fortunately the Registrar’s office is comprised of a dedicated staff that that want to do a good job–their whole purpose is to ensure that election law is followed. It is most emphatically not a political office.
The idea that millions of people have committed a federal crime that has not been detected is absurd. Our elections face numerous real threats. Voter fraud is not one of them. Yes, our elections are broken. We need to unrig the system by voting for representation that will fight the real issues our elections face–the systemic corruption of money and gerrymandering. We need representation that will defend voting as a right, not a privilege. We need to push back against people that undermine confidence in our elections, whether they are Russians, Representatives, or Presidents.
We need to vote.