AB 840: Auditing (2017)

The Assembly approved AB 840 today 9/15/17. It will now go to the governor.
See https://www.facebook.com/groups/VrtfCa/ for the latest updates.

It was an accomplishment just to get it called back to the Assembly Elections Committee on Thursday after it left the Senate on Tuesday. This was not a given. The SoS and CACEO were claiming that the amendments were just a “clarification” of the law. Had that interpretation held, AB 840 would have gone straight to the Assembly floor. But we were able to a least avoid that, and had a chance to make our case. We lost in committee, and in the legislature. It’s not always wise to stand up in front of a freight train, but we were standing up for transparency & democracy. I’m proud of everybody who contributed to this cause.


Elections matter, and they are being attacked from the outside and the inside. The foundation of election security is based on paper ballots and random hand counts of the ballots. Section 15360 of the Calif. elections code requires a 1% random “audit”, specifically a “public manual tally of the ballots, including vote by mail ballots …”. This means all vote by mail ballots. San Diego registrar, Michael Vu, was not following the law, along with half a dozen other large California counties. In 2016 Democracy advocate Ray Lutz sued, and in the case of Lutz v. Vu_, Superior Court Judge Wohlfeil agreed last fall with the straightforward interpretation of the law, we must include _all vote by mail ballots.

On August 24, the authors of AB 840 inserted last-minute amendments that exempt millions of vote by mail ballots from the manual tally. The language AB 840 adds to section 15360 is below is in underlined text. The section says that officials shall conduct …

  • (1) (A) A public manual tally of the ballots canvassed in the semifinal official canvass, including vote by mail ballots but not including provisional ballots, cast in 1 percent of the precincts chosen at random by the elections official.

They made nearly identical changes in sections (2)(A) and (2)(B). The text is here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB840

The key phrase here is semifinal official canvass. It means the totaling and reporting of results on election night (Section 15150). It includes ballots cast in the precincts, and vote by mail ballots that are fully processed and counted by election night. When you see the phrase “100% of precincts reporting”, that’s the semifinal official tally, Unfortunately, it leaves out that evening’s many unprocessed ballots, ballots that arrive Wednesday through Friday, and all provisional ballots. Millions of them.

The authors, Assembly members Quirk (D-20), Obernolte (R-33) and Gonzalez Fletcher (D-80), snuck in these amendments at the last minute, August 24, months after passage of AB 840 by the Assembly Elections Committee (March 22), by the full Assembly (April 20), and by the Senate Elections Committee (June 6). This means well after the amendments could be properly considered by knowledgeable legislators, experts and by the public. Last minute sneak amendments are intentional, and designed to dodge expert and public scrutiny.

Over half of California now votes by mail, and that is growing. Many counties will be sending vote by mail ballots to everybody in the future (see SB 450). The very many ballots now allowed to arrive three days after the election will not be audited. The LA Times reported on November 10, 2016, two days after the election, that over 4 million ballots remained uncounted. They were mostly mail and provisional ballots. This can change elections. Legally exempting millions of ballots from scrutiny is an open invitation to large scale election fraud.

The Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Voting Rights Task Force (VRTF), Open Ballot Initiative (OBI), Citizens Oversight Project (COPS) and democracy advocates across the California insist the authors cut section 15360 from AB 840, or pull it from the Senate floor. Barring that, we insist that Assembly call back AB 840 to the Assembly Elections Committee in order to review the radical changes added August 24 without its approval, the Assembly’s approval, or Senate Elections Committee’s approval.

More Info
LA County Democratic Party Opposes AB 840!

The following letter opposing AB 840 was endorsed unanimously on September 12, 2017
by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party!


Call or write Governor Brown’s office, an urge him to veto the bill. His office number is (916) 445-2841. Fax: (916) 558-3160. You can also write to him from this page: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

Please do as much of this as you can and as is appropriate, in this order:

1) The bill passed the Senate on September 12. The Assembly is likely to vote on AB 840 by Thursday or Friday. Please call and/or write your assembly member, now, and tell them to vote NO on AB 840. It’s dangerous for California’s elections.

The “Find Your California Representative” page is here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

You will also find members phone numbers and web pages here: http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers

2) AB 840 is now going back to the review by the Assembly. Assembly rule 77 clearly states that if an “amendment makes a substantial substantive change to a bill as passed by the last committee of reference, the bill, as amended, may be referred by the Speaker to the appropriate committee.” The committee here would be the Assembly Elections Committee. The changes are not merely substantial substantive, they are a radical rewriting of the law. The key player here is Speaker Rendon. We are asking that you contact him at https://speaker.asmdc.org/contact-anthony, and urge him to do the right thing, send AB 840 back to the Assembly Elections Committee. Given the politically powerful forces behind AB 840, this is not a given.

3) The Assembly Elections Committee can kill AB 840.

Please write and/or call the members of the Assembly Elections Committee (below).

Tell them that AB 840 was radically amended on August 24, months after it left the Assembly and Senate Election Committees. To protect our election audits, the Assembly must call it back, and kill it. Milliions of vote by mail ballots must remain part of the 1% audit.

Please email the committee secretary: Lori.Barber@asm.ca.gov . Subject Line: AB 840: Call it back. Include wording similar to the comments above. Make it very short, and to the point.

If you are a constituent, please write your assembly member through their web page: http://aelc.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

  • Marc Berman (Chair): (916) 319-2024
  • Mathew Harper (Vice Chair): (916) 319-2074
  • Ian C. Calderon: (916) 319-2057
  • Evan Low: (916) 319-2028
  • Kevin Mullin: (916) 319-2022
  • Jim Patterson: (916) 319-2023
  • Shirley Weber: (916) 319-2079

You will also find committee member phone numbers and web pages here: http://aelc.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

The “Find My Legislator” page is here: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

4) If you are a constituent of Assemblymembers :

call them, and write to them on their web pages. Tell them to either cut Section 15360 from AB 840, or to just pull the bill.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: