By Emily Cameron
The vehement insistence that Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary fair-and-square is unhealthy for democracy, and the narrative that Bernie Sanders supporters critiquing voter suppression and election fraud are ‘sore losers’ causes lasting damage to our elections.
Alex Padilla, the California Secretary of State, openly campaigned for Hillary Clinton for crying out loud! It’s against the law to wear a Hillary Clinton button to the polls because you might influence other voters, but somehow it is totally legal for the man in charge of our elections to publicly hug a presidential candidate.
For some reason, there are Democrats who will agree that the elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen and/or the result of voter suppression – but any mention of the 2016 primary election being the same way, and these very Democrats will laugh in your face.
To these folks, I must ask: what exactly leads you to believe that everything in our elections process is running smoothly? Do you even know what voting machines we use in Fresno County? Please enlighten me. I am very curious. (We use the AccuVote ES-2000 and AccuVote TSx, by the way.)
As an election observer after the June 7 primary, I spent roughly three weeks watching our Fresno County Registrar of Voters’ office process ballots. I helped rally other citizens to come join me in observation so we had multiple sets of eyeballs monitoring what happened behind closed doors. We tried to be there at all times – sometimes from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. – while ballots were handled. It was not a paid position; we were merely interested voters, taxpaying Americans, paying attention to the most crucial part of our democratic society.
It’s rather fortunate we observed the ballot count because not a soul was observing at the Elections Warehouse or Elections Office other than us. Not. A. Soul.
We – and by ‘we’ I mean nearly everyone in California, not just Fresno County – have a blind faith in our elections officials. We have a somewhat elitist attitude that election fraud only happens in ‘lesser’ states like Florida or Ohio; we think that California is superior so we must also be naturally incorruptible.
Sure, in many respects, California is a model for other states in the country when it comes to elections. In 1965 we passed a law that requires an audit via a manual hand count of the ballots in 1% of the precincts in each county. For example, if a voting machine says that 50 people voted for Uncle Sam and 40 people voted for Lady Liberty, the manual hand-count would double check to ensure those numbers are correct. If the hand-count reveals that 20 people voted for Uncle Sam and 70 people voted for Lady Liberty, then we would know the machines are incorrect.
The law was ahead of its time and helps to promote a fair, transparent democracy… when it’s done right.
The Registrar of Voters in all 58 California counties must perform a random selection of the precincts that are to be audited. Most other counties select the precincts that are subject to an audit after the election has occurred. In Fresno County, our Registrar of Voters, Brandi Orth, selected the precincts that will be audited for the November 8 election on August 30 – an astonishing two months and two weeks before the presidential election.
This means if someone wanted to tamper with a voting machine, they now know which machines to avoid tampering with and have plenty of time to plan and execute any criminal activity.
Orth was told multiple times in June by Fresno election integrity activists that selecting these precincts two months before an election is grossly inappropriate. The 1% precinct selection for the June 7 primary election was performed two months prior to that election as well. It would be quite simple and cost zero taxpayer dollars to move the selection of the precincts to a later date.
On October 8 and 9, several Fresno activists, including myself, attended a conference called “Take Back the Vote” in Richmond, Cal. In a room full of the nation’s top election integrity activists, lawyers, scholars, computer scientists, and even a handful of government officials, Fresno County was used in presentations as an example of shoddy election practices because of the 1% precinct selection.
Oddly enough, it seems the only high-profile candidate calling for transparent elections is Donald J. Trump, and he is most certainly citing election rigging as a premature excuse for his highly-likely loss on November 8 due to the implosion of his campaign. While election fraud and voter suppression are massive problems nationwide, the type of election rigging suggested by Trump just illustrates how little he knows about elections.
The voter suppression tactics that helped Hillary Clinton win the primary will be largely inapplicable in November – Sanders voters faced issues such as closed primaries, voter registration changes without their consent, being booted from the roster, and/or excessive dispersing of provisional ballots, just to name a few. Unlike in the primaries, if Trump voters find themselves suddenly registered as Democrats, they can still vote for the man. Trump voters are most likely not going to be booted from the registration lists because let’s face it, it’s usually precincts across the U.S. with higher numbers of people of color that see purges from the system. Additionally, voting machines in America are not all from the same manufacturer, not all connected to the internet, and vary from county to county, so the idea of Hillary Clinton pressing a button on her phone that would simultaneously take over thousands of machines and erase Republican votes is laughable.
Trump and his supporters are so distracted by ideas of undocumented immigrants or dead people voting that they have all but missed a real, valid criticism of Hillary Clinton: The Clinton Foundation has received donations from Dominion Voting and H.I.G. Capital, two manufacturers of voting machines. Does this definitively prove Clinton of committing election fraud? No, but it raises a lot of questions.
According to computer scientist Dr. Barbara Simons, Dominion Voting bought out the infamous company Diebold, made famous when a Princeton study published in 2006 showcased how to rig Diebold voting machines and went so far as to post explanatory videos on YouTube. The Princeton scholars expected the release of these findings to be followed with intense backlash and a recall or reprogramming of Diebold’s voting machines, but that never happened.
Diebold machines are still being used, just under different names, in counties across America. Hackable Diebold/Dominion machines are even in battleground states like Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Florida; several counties in California use them – yes, including Fresno.
This is why I get so angry at Clinton supporters accusing Jill Stein supporters like me of “throwing away” our votes; if anybody knows anything about throwing votes in the trash, it’s the Democratic Party. Jill Stein supporters are the ones on the ground putting in the long hours, making sure everyone’s vote is handled properly.
While the nation frets about the possibility of Donald Trump becoming President on Election Night, I will be at 4525 E. Hamilton Ave., monitoring the ballot count. And in the 30 days following the election I will be assigning volunteers to watch while the ballots are still processed, long after the media has declared Hillary Clinton the winner. Feel free to stop by and say hello.
Emily Cameron is an activist and freelance journalist with bylines in several local publications, including The Fresno Bee. She is a member of Fresno County’s Election Observer Panel on behalf of the Fresno County Green Party. Cameron volunteers for Dr. Jill Stein’s campaign, Progressive Democrats of America, and the Yes on 62 campaign to end the death penalty in California.