Addendum October, 2020:
I remain generally strongly opposed to rampant, unchecked vote by mail (VbM). However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot ask people to risk their lives by voting in person. We do not have good options at this late date. We must allow voters decide how they will vote, including using VbM. We will then need to rewrite the laws and regulations around VbM, given the vulnerabilities I list below.
The Post Mortem:
Ab 1921 was signed by the governor in the fall of 2016. We shall return to this issue at a later date to try to require better record keeping of vote by mail ballots brought into an elections office.
AB 1921 would allow anybody to walk into an elections office and hand over truckloads of vote by mail envelopes with ballots inside, no questions asked, no verified records kept. It amounts to an open invitation to large-scale vote buying, voter coercion, “granny farming”, and automated forgery. AB 1921 solves no problem that a simple stamp can’t solve.
The Voting Rights Task Force is leading a statewide campaign to stop this bill, We are asking you to contact the governor, and urge him to veto AB 1921 because we don’t need armies of paid, unidentified ballot collectors when postage stamps will do.
Current California elections code states that a vote by mail voter who is “unable” to return their ballot may have a family or household member return it to the elections office [section 3017(a)(3)]. The ballot may not be returned by workers of a political committee or other organizations [section 3017(e)].
AB 1921 changes section 3017 to allow “any person” to bring in truckloads of VbM ballots – no questions asked – no records kept.
This is an open invitation to …
- large scale vote buying:
Proponents of the bill say that there are laws against vote buying/selling. But it is a victimless crime. Nobody is going to report it, because both sides profit from it. Vote buying has happened often in past American history. Given the several billion dollars spent on American elections, and 130 million voters, we can price a generic blank ballot at more than $100. For close and important races, much more than that.
- voter coercion:
This is a variation of vote buying. Somebody’s boss, or union chief, or other “superior” says they want to see your ballot. If not, you’re out. You may have the strength to say no, but many people don’t. Megachurches, unions, and political organizations have been holding ballot “parties” for years. Here is one just example: from San Francisco, 2004. This exerts inappropriate job pressure and/or social pressure. This kind of “ballot harvesting” gets easier when the organization can deliver the ballots for you, perhaps chucking the ones they don’t like, just as some people throw away voter registrations they’ve collected but don’t like.
- granny farming:
Here, operatives target senior homes, and “assist” elderly people to fill out their ballots “correctly”. A variation of this is “helping” chinese speakers to fill out their ballots, as happened in San Francisco, 2011. This is preying on the weaknesses of voters to harvest more votes for one side.
- automated forgery:
Many organizations have digital copies of millions of signatures. They also have the names and addresses. It’s not hard to create copies of VbM envelopes and ballots. Indeed, there are numerous companies that county election office hire to send out VbM ballots to the voters; and they have exact digital copies of the signatures. All you need is to vote in place of people who don’t vote. That’s not hard to find out, because whether or not you voted is a public record. Just comb through the records to find the people who are registered, but don’t vote. Get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns go one step further. They find out, legally, who has not voted by, say 5 PM, on election day, so that the campaign can call them and encourage them to vote. Take it the to next step: if the person says they are not going to vote, you’ve got their signature, and everything else you need. Just vote in place of the non-voters. Truckloads of them.
Some, not understanding computer internals, and/or unwilling to look at the actual history and current extent of election manipulation in the US, call automated forgery “far-fetched”. But this is just as “far-fetched” as Russia hacking elections; and as “far-fetched” as the hacking of voter registration databases, now confirmed by officials in Arizona, Illinois, and Riverside, Calif, county. Computer-savvy democracy advocates saw both of these threats coming 10 years ago. Few listened, but both are here, now. Automated forgery is next.
Note: Wells Fargo’s Phony Account Scam: “An analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Wells Fargo concluded that bank employees opened as many as 1,534,280 deposit accounts and another 565,443 credit card accounts that were not authorized.”
Remember, there are no questions asked about why the voter is “unable” to vote. Section 3017 does not require officials to keep records of who brought in how many, much less which ballots. At best, we have the purported name of the delivery person on the envelope. But there is no positive identification, no address, no signature. Investigators cannot track down possible criminal activity if they can’t identify who brought in the ballots.
The text of AB 1921 is here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1921
The Report of Commission on Federal Election Reform (Carter/Baker, 9/2005) concluded that “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” Little has changed since then, except that the number of Californians using vote by mail is growing past 50%.
We must stop this invitation to unlimited “ballot harvesting”. The victim is our democracy.