"It was like a stab to the heart," said Donna Tarr, "to see the presidential vote being crossed out." Tarr is one of the citizen observers who watched as a Los Angeles county worker remade a "snagged" Democrat ballot onto a fresh, clean No Party Preference ballot, effectively wiping out their presidential vote. (To find out what happened, see this story.)
Problems like these raise serious question as to whether the vote in California has been counted correctly.
WatchtheVoteUSA.com is taking declarations from Californians, to show a jury of their peers the various ways in which voters were disenfranchised.
"A Civil Grand Jury is a lot faster than a lawsuit," said Kelly Mordecai of WatchtheVoteUSA.com. "We hope their investigation and immediate report or presentment will call for a more uniform, more reliable voting process, proper training of poll workers, and no tampering with people's registration."
To start a Civil Grand Jury investigation, voters may file a complaint with their county. Both the complaints and WatchtheVoteUSA's declarations will present the details of an election gone horribly wrong.
Independent Voters Disenfranchised in a Myriad of Ways
Independent voters may have been disenfranchised during the June 7th primary because of unusual rules that don't apply to voters who register under a party. Independents, falling under the category of No Party Preference (NPP), needed to use special "crossover" ballots in certain California counties - Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego being among them - to vote for president.
The No Party Preference Postcard Fiasco
A number of hurdles must be overcome for an independent to cast his/her precious vote for president, especially when voting by mail. The California Secretary of State sends out a postcard to No Party Preference voters, requiring a response. Their website states, "Voters with no party preference who vote by mail were sent a post-card from their county elections office asking if the voter would like to receive a ballot with presidential candidates from the Democratic Party, American Independent Party, or Libertarian Party. Voters who did not return this post card will receive a non-partisan ballot without presidential candidates."
But if residents missed that little postcard or didn't return it in time, they may have lost their presidential vote. According to Kim Alexander, director of the California Voter Foundation, there are 2.2 million NPP voters who vote by mail and 85% of them did not return the postcards they were sent to request a crossover ballot. Therefore, Alexander estimates that 1,870,000 voters were given ballots without presidential candidates. "Some voters don't realize they are vote-by-mail voters in the first place and aren't aware they were sent a ballot. Or they waited until Election Day to open their ballot and only then realized that they have no presidential candidates on their ballot and don't fully understand what options they have to get a replacement ballot at their polling place."
Election Problems: Voters Disenfranchised by Incorrect Party, Write-in Voting, Party Flips, Surprise Vote-by-Mail and Voter Purges
1. Incorrect Party: If independent voters mistakenly registered for the American Independent Party, they wouldn't find Bernie, Hillary, or Donald on their ballot. Only American Independent Party candidates were listed. The platform of the AIP supports religion in schools and anti-abortion measures, but the name of the party implies "independent".
2. Write-in Voting: Voters who don't find candidates listed on their ballot may mistakenly think that a write-in vote will count. Write-in votes are only valid for qualified write-in candidates. Voting for "Mickey Mouse" might seem like a reasonable way to protest the election, however, Mickey won't get the publicity he deserves because the counties don't specify who received write-in votes, especially if the votes were thrown out.
4. Online registration automatically becomes VBM: When registering to vote online, some voters experienced the form defaulting to "vote by mail" unless they unchecked that box. Surprise! A VBM ballot must be surrendered at the polls for the walk-in voter to avoid receiving a provisional ballot.
5. Registration Forms: New voters often find out, too late, that their paper registration didn't "take" at the county for a variety of reasons. Donna Tarr and others who helped people register to vote, were required to mail the form to the county within 3 working days. Incomplete information is enough to halt the registration process. This disproportionately affected young and/or first-time voters. Tarr said, "One of the slides during the training session for Los Angeles volunteers shows that in 2015, of all the registrations received, 112,072 forms were snagged. 33,287 were simply missing a date in the signature box, or their signatures couldn't be matched with DMV records." The voter registration forms are poorly designed, Tarr said.
Poll Workers Disenfranchised Voters With Wrong/Misleading Information
Incompetent and spotty training of poll workers made it questionable whether voters would receive the proper ballot in person. In the recent documentary Uncounted by Michelle Antoinette Boley and Taylor Gill, trainee Sara Watts of Sun Valley said, "I originally just applied to be a poll worker. They insisted that the inspectors were seasoned people so if we had any problems, the inspector would be there to help us out, and then six days before [the election], I get a call to be the inspector, with absolutely no additional training."
If a voter didn't know to ask for a special crossover ballot, they couldn't expect a tutorial at the polls. The official election officer training manual states, "Processing a Crossover Voter: A No Party Preference voter will need to request a crossover ballot from the Roster Index Officer. (Do not offer them a crossover ballot if they do not ask.)"
If the poll worker didn't have the voter's name on the roster, if their party affiliation didn't match their ballot, if an independent showed up without their vote by mail ballot and the envelope it came with, or if anything was amiss, the poll worker gave out provisional ballots. Provisionals are the stepchild ballot; they must mesh with the county's records, or they will be thrown out. The fact that people experienced mis-matched parties and faulty registration means their votes won't count.
Voter Suppression Tactics
Volunteer election observer Don Ford alleges that provisional ballots and crossover ballots are a form of suppression. "I worked with several poll watchers in different polling locations [in Los Angeles]," said Ford. "There is something we've never seen before happen. First off, we had people who disappeared with all the ballots [before election day]. People took the ballots home and they just didn't show up to work. That forced people on provisionals right away because that was all they could get to that location."
Electronic Machine Counting of Paper Ballots is Still Electronic
Sarah Spangler, retired American Government teacher, said, "For more than 10 years, election integrity activists, computer professionals and attorneys who are experts in constitutional and election law, have been doing research that reveals data from each election, exposing the vast underbelly of corruption made possible by computerized electronic elections that allow few people to easily use the system to get the results they desire without detection or accountability."
A grand jury investigation into the problem of electronic voting machines and vote counters may prove invaluable. Through declarations such as those collected by WatchtheVoteUSA.com, citizens who distrust electronic-ballot-counting-machines can convince a grand jury to report the need to implement a system that inspires confidence. Mimi Kennedy, actor and activist for election integrity said we need "a one-person/one-vote paper ballot, verifiable by the voter before casting and verifiable by the public in anonymous aggregate results by hand-counting ballots to check accuracy against any other means of tabulation."
A Grand Jury Investigation Into the Role of the Press
The media's influence before, during, and after the election would perpetrate a fraud on the American public. The Associated Press called California's election the day before, giving voters the impression that there was no need to waste a visit to the polls. The day of the primary, the press announced Hillary Clinton the winner without certifiable election results. And California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla remained silent even though the County Registrars established that too many vote-by-mail and provisional ballots were still uncounted to be certain of the outcome. These tactics by the media are propaganda at its finest, to the detriment of the democratic process.
Voters who have suffered any of the above issues are urged to make their problems known to WatchtheVoteUSA.com. The group seeks to start a Civil Grand Jury investigation as soon as possible. To file a California Voter Declaration, visit WatchtheVoteUSA.com.