Secretary of State Alex Padilla teamed up with Orange County’s registrar of voters and district attorney Monday to reassure the public about vote fraud concerns.
When asked about President Donald Trump’s complaints about alleged vote-by-mail fraud, Padilla said the claims were “baseless and not helpful.”
The three pledged to make the Nov. 3 election as fraud-free as possible, with District Attorney Todd Spitzer declaring that he will not tolerate any voter harassment or intimidation at the polls.
Registrar Neal Kelley told City News Service that his office has seen just a dozen cases of voter fraud over the past 17 years and they were mainly from voter registration, not with a ballot itself.
Kelley announced at Monday’s news conference that his office was delivering 1.7 million ballots to the post office to send to voters Monday morning.
Padilla said 21 million ballots are being sent out statewide.
“We know we’re in unprecedented times,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that election officials are prepared for the “unprecedented election.”
Voters have many options if they are concerned about coronavirus. They may drop off their ballot in a drop box, put it in the mail or walk it into a vote center on election day. The postage is prepaid, so voters don’t have to fumble with stamps, Padilla said.
Orange County voters can call Kelley’s office at 714-567-7600 if they have any questions about how to safely cast their ballot.
The county has 116 drop boxes and 170 in-person vote centers, Kelley said.
“What’s important to know is there’s an unbroken chain of custody” of the ballots to the Registrar’s office, Kelley said. Voters themselves deposit the ballot into a box at the vote centers, he noted.
The registrar’s office will begin processing ballots immediately, but will not start tabulating them until election night, Kelley said.
The county has 300 staffers available on election day to respond to any issues, he said.
“We’re not going to tolerate voter intimidation … or rule breaking,” Kelley said.
Anyone who wants to observe the registrar’s office processing votes is welcome to make a reservation, he said.
Spitzer noted he previously served in the state legislature alongside Padilla and praised his office and Kelley’s.
“I have absolute confidence … this election will be open, fair and free,” Spitzer said. “Neal Kelley is one of the most respected registrars in the nation.”
Spitzer held up a sample ballot, saying, “This is what people have fought for … people shed blood for,” calling the right to vote “sacrosanct.”
Vote fraud can lead to four years in state prison, Spitzer warned. If anyone is considering “mischief,” they should be aware, “We will be there to enforce the law,” he said.
Spitzer referred to recent unrest at protests and warned anyone against attempting to harass voters.
“We will not allow rhetoric to control this election,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer’s office also has a vote fraud hotline at 714-501-4593.
Kelley vowed a “robust response” to electioneering at the vote centers.
Padilla echoed Kelley’s point about vote fraud incidents, saying it is “exceedingly rare.”
More than 70% of California voters cast a ballot by mail in the primary, Padilla said.
Voters must sign their ballots and election officials compare the signature to the one on file. If there’s a dispute, then election officials will call the voter to make sure they cast the ballot.
The ballots themselves are printed on special paper with watermarks so it’s difficult to counterfeit, Padilla said.
He said “election observation is allowed,” but any poll watchers are prohibited from bothering voters.
“You have the right to cast a ballot free from electioneering and intimidation,” Padilla said.
“There will be no voter intimidation, period,” Spitzer said. “No one should be denied the vote.”
If there’s any dispute at the polls about eligibility, voters can cast a provisional ballot and “that can be sorted out later,” he said.
Police officers throughout the county are being trained to focus on “keeping the peace” if there is a dispute at the polls, Spitzer said, adding, “They are not to make decisions on who can vote and who will not vote.”
Padilla reassured voters who are concerned about electronic vote machine flipping. The state requires paper ballots, so there is always a paper trail, he said.
“When we count the votes we’re counting paper,” Padilla said.
Padilla also pointed out that the vote machines are not connected to the web to prevent hacking.
Kelley said he works closely with Orange County postal officials and is eyeing the delivery process to make sure every voter gets a ballot.
“I have full faith and confidence in the postal system,” Kelley said.