“You’re not going to like this,” a woman on the line told him. “You guys are not in the system.”
Lentini and his wife, Susan, are longtime voters, regularly walking to nearby Sulphur Springs Elementary School to cast their ballots, although Susan suffered a stroke and did not vote in the primary. Now, he was being told that he would have to travel to a Sylmar library to re-register her.
The problem was that the deadline to register to vote Nov. 6 was Oct. 22.
Public Information Officer Mike Sanchez said both are registered and are able to vote next week, but since they are listed as “vote by mail,” they must bring their ballot to the polling place and surrender it in exchange for an in-person ballot. No trip to Sylmar is necessary.
It is these kinds of mysteries that make Mark Meuser incensed. Meuser, running for Secretary of State, said he has found numerous examples of problems with voter rolls. These include people listing businesses or post office boxes as their residences, non-existent resident addresses and people failing to list dates of birth on voter registration forms that are accepted by county registrars.
“It’s been so lax, we don’t seem to care that we don’t have accurate state registration roll,” Meuser said by phone from Anaheim earlier this week.
And he blames current Secretary of State Alex Padilla for failing to maintain the rolls. One of the office’s primary duties is to act as the state’s chief election officer.
When people think of “voter fraud,” they probably mean “voter impersonation,” in which a person not eligible to vote votes under the name of someone who is eligible, votes more than once or pretends to be another eligible voter.
It was for this kind of fraud that Donald Trump, soon after taking office, went on Twitter and called for “a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered in two states, those who are illegal and even those registered to vote who are dead.” He claimed that this fraud was the reason he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
In fact, this kind of fraud is extremely rare and has never been proven to affect an election’s outcome. But there are other worries surrounding elections, such as the reliability of accurate voter rolls.
According to Meuser, the problems have little to do with whether a person can prove their identity. Rather, he said, the state needs to do a better job at verifying citizenship (only American citizens can vote), residences, and that the address listed is actually a residence.
An area he said should be examined is jury-service summons. He said he found some 449,000 people returning jury summonses saying they’re not American citizens and, therefore, aren’t eligible to serve on juries. They’re also not eligible to vote, but Meuser wonders how many of these people ended up voting.
In fact, Padilla’s office announced this month that between April and September, 1,500 people who signed up for driver licenses at Department of Motor Vehicles offices accidentally were registered to vote because of DMV employee errors. Some of those people are non-citizens. The Los Angeles Times reported that Padilla canceled those registrations upon discovery, but he couldn’t say if any had voted in the June primary.
Meuser also found from looking at statewide databases (access the Gazette does not have and, therefore, cannot verify), 23,108 people with a birthdate older than the recognized oldest person in the state (birthdate: July 24, 1906) were registered to vote, and 16,780 voted in the 2016 election.
“There are two explanations: Somebody has fraud going on or the county registrar is failing to uphold the law,” Meuser said, adding that state law requires registration forms to include a date of birth; forms are to be returned if it’s missing.
Meuser also found that 75 people listed a fictitious address in Malibu when they registered to vote; 15 of those people actually voted. “OK, where do they really reside?” Meuser said. “What’s going on? We don’t know.”
Furthermore, he said, 10 people listed a jewelry store in San Diego as their residence; six voted. Twelve listed a miniature golf course, 31 listed a check-cashing store in Gardena, and 16 listed a non-existent Long Beach hotel.
“They are diluting the vote of the people who live in that district,” Meuser said.
None of these numbers are very large, and many might argue that such infinitesimal numbers wouldn’t affect and election. Meuser acknowledges that a major race such as president or governor might not be affected, but down-the-ballot races could.
“Bernie Sanders won his first race (mayor of Burlington, Vt.) by 10 votes,” Meuser said. “Seventy-five people in a precinct could flip a mayoral race, a city council race, a supervisor race.”
The solution, Meuser said, is to have the Secretary of State do a better job comparing registration rolls with Social Security rolls, DMV records, property tax assessments and information credit card companies use. “When you see problems, you need to flag them for investigation,” he said.
The other thing people can do is vote. Meuser said the more people who vote, the less special interests can turn an election.
“The best way anybody can guarantee representative government is to get out and vote,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a progressive Democrat or a Tea Party Republican. Massive voter turnout beats a well-planned fraud every single time.”