Letters to the Editor – April 2017

Letters to the Editor – April 2017

Ballot Observation News!!

Emily Cameron

Clovis, CA

I started off as a Bernie volunteer with a mission to monitor the Registrar of Voters so our candidate would be treated fairly. What we saw was much bigger than any of us could have anticipated. Judy Hess from PDA first discovered the extreme irregularity with what we now know as the random precinct selection for the 1 percent manual tally.

To recap what happened – the Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters, Brandi Orth, had selected the precincts to be reviewed with a hand-count two months before the June primary. For two months, Orth and her staff knew which precincts would be inspected, and therefore also knew which precincts would not be subject to inspection. As if this weren’t bad enough, Orth sets aside voting machines in the warehouse for each specific precinct (I was able to see this up close as a special member of the Election Observer Panel in the fall of last year). Voting machines are not assigned randomly to each precinct. So, any nefarious individual with bad intentions had two months to tamper with voting machines without detection before the polls opened.

We complained to Brandi Orth, but she refused to change her ways. Then in September, I discovered that she had selected the precincts for the random selection in late August. This meant that the November 8 election would be a repeat of the primaries – once more, elections officials would have two months to tamper with machines that they knew would not be looked at. Naturally this raised an alarm – Judy Hess, Jill Cisneros, and I got hard at work trying to find a way to fix the problem. At one point, we even had the chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party involved – and he released a press release, but the media did not care. It felt hopeless. But then we had an idea.

There was no data about when the other counties of California did their random selection, so we found the data ourselves. Judy, Jill, and I made phone calls to every Registrar’s office in all 58 counties. By the time our spreadsheet was complete, we found that 54 of 58 counties performed the selection after Election Day.

Only one county in the state of California selected precincts for the tally months before the election. That County was Fresno. 

Fortunately, Judy has a great many number of contacts. Mimi Kennedy, an actress/activist/PDA national board member, reached out to her California state senator and the senator got us in touch with the California Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State’s office agreed that Brandi Orth should not have chosen the precincts so early – they called her and told her to re-do the selection. 

It was a huge victory for us in November. But that’s not the end of the story.

On Wednesday night, March 22, I was informed that a bill has been introduced into the California state legislature specifically stating that elections officials must select the precincts for the 1 percent manual tally after the polls have been closed. The bill is called AB-1154. You can research it yourself if you would like: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1154

AB-1154 was introduced by Assembly member Nazarian at the request of none other than Mimi Kennedy.

I know it is a bit premature to celebrate a bill before it has passed, but we ought to be immensely proud of ourselves. I want to thank ALL OF YOU that put in those long hours in the boring warehouse and the boring downtown office. That work was crucial to the formation of this bill. Our observations made a difference. I want you all to know that your time and energy paid off. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my amazing activist warriors. People thought we were crazy for sitting around watching the ballots. But now we can prove them wrong. There will soon be a CALIFORNIA STATE LAW to prove we were right.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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