Riverside Board of Supervisors - Photo courtesy of Rivco.org

The Board of Supervisors is slated Tuesday to approve the establishment of an Election Advisory Committee, composed of volunteers who will monitor Riverside County elections and solicit input from residents on what to improve in the interest of transparency and efficiency.

The committee concept has been in the works since August, when the board first affirmed the need for an independent commission to meet each year to scrutinize election practices and come up with proposals that will ensure the integrity of operations during primary and general elections.

“This committee will provide a public forum for voters to receive information, ask questions and raise concerns, in order to increase public engagement and confidence in our election process,” according to a statement posted to the board’s agenda.

The proposal calls for a seven-member panel, which would include a chair, a designee from the Republican Party, a designee from the Democratic Party, a third-party designee hailing from whichever third party garnered the highest votes countywide in the most recent presidential election, a representative from the League of Women Voters, a representative from a local Hispanic nonpartisan community organization and an ex-officio rep from the Executive Office, who would serve in a non-voting capacity.

In an election year, such as the current one, the committee would be tasked with convening a minimum of five meetings, both ahead of and following the primary and general elections. In non-election years, the panel would only need to meet twice.

All meetings would be accessible via Zoom to encourage wide public participation.

The committee would report findings and concerns to the board, the Ad-Hoc Committee on Elections, the Executive Office and the Office of the Registrar of Voters.

Members would serve two-year terms and have the support of personnel from the Executive Office, Office of County Counsel and the registrar’s office.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries first broached the idea of a standing independent election integrity committee in May 2020. It didn’t gain traction at the time, but he pressed the issue again in May of last year, despite Registrar Rebecca Spencer’s position that a committee wasn’t needed since an observer panel was already available.

“What we have with the observer panel is a free-for-all,” Jeffries said at the time. “It’s whoever wants to show up and take over the room. We need structure, education and interaction with the registrar.

“The November (2020) election showed exactly why having that extra layer of public trust in the system can be important, as the entire electoral process was called into question across the country,” the supervisor said.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel concurred, expressing frustration that details about defects in prior elections that were provided to her by poll workers and others were then conveyed by her to registrar’s staff, “and it went nowhere.”

“I foresee we’re going to have challenges and accusations (in future elections),” she said. “We need to have more than a panel that pops up at election time.”

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