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California, Contra Costa elections chief at odds over double-voting concerns

July 13,2016 22:23

MARTINEZ -- The California Secretary of State's office is taking exception to the Contra Costa County elections chief's call for a change in how vote-by-mail voters are accommodated at election-day polling places, and wants to see evidence backing ...and more »

MARTINEZ -- The California Secretary of State's office is taking exception to the Contra Costa County elections chief's call for a change in how vote-by-mail voters are accommodated at election-day polling places, and wants to see evidence backing allegations made last week that following state rules allowed double-voting in the June 7 primary election.Secretary of State spokesman Sam Mahood said Monday his office as asked Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla to provide evidence that 113 people successfully voted twice in the primary election in that county. Canciamilla said this week he will comply.

Joe Canciamilla, clerk-recorder for the Contra Costa Elections & Registration office, demonstrates how an optical scanner, that was made in the 1980s works in Martinez, Calif., on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

At issue is whether voters in Contra Costa who come to polling places on election day wanting a different ballot from the one they were issued through the mail should be required to fill out provisional ballots. That goes against state election law, which says such voters who surrender complete mail-in ballots simply be allowed to cast a standard ballot of their choice behind the curtain.Contra Costa had required provisional ballots in such circumstances over the past three years, but the day before the June primary, Canciamilla agreed to suspend the practice and conform to state protocol at the request of the Secretary of State's office. A rush of Bernie Sanders supporters were urged to cast polling-place ballots, instead of mail-ins or provisionals, to guarantee their votes were counted on election night. Advertisement
Canciamilla contends that requiring the provisional ballots is a safeguard against double-voting. Provisionals are counted only after a voter's registration is confirmed and after it's determined that person hasn't already voted. He believes that the 113 double votes could have been prevented if the county had not lifted its requirement for provisionals. Those 113 cases will be referred to the district attorney for possible voter fraud charges.Mahood said state law allows voters who receive mail-in ballots to ask polling place workers for a new "live" ballot cast at that polling place. "This has been our practice for years; it's in the voter bill of rights," said Mahood. "We think it's pretty clear, in our read of it," that provisional ballots shouldn't be required in that situation.Alameda County follows the standard state protocol. Only if a voter surrenders a vote-by-mail ballot at a polling place without the attached envelope are those voters given a provisional ballot, said Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis.Mahood criticized the Contra Costa elections office for not printing out rosters in previous election cycles of vote-by-mail voters, which he said could have been used to check whether they had already voted. Alameda County does supply such lists to its poll workers, Dupuis said -- one printed immediately after the voter registration deadline, followed by a supplemental list much closer to election day."It's a lot of printing," said Dupuis, who said Tuesday that 13 double-votes were found by his staff ifollowing the June 7 primary.Santa Clara County elections officials found 78 voters cast two or more ballots last month. That's far more than usual, and officials there cited confusion over how independent voters could vote in the Democratic presidential primary as the main reason. As in Alameda County, only those last-minute polling-place voters without another complete ballot to turn in had to use a provisional ballot.Canciamilla said his office did provide such vote-by-mail voter lists to poll workers June 7 but only after the Secretary of State's request that provisional ballots not be made compulsory. He confirmed his poll workers haven't been given such lists for the previous three years.He said he will continue to push for either a tweak of existing elections code to require this use of provisional ballots, or a new code section to require it. "I understand (the Secretary of State) is upset we don't do things the way everyone else does," Canciamilla said. "We're just saying we believe there's a flaw in the system, and that there's a painless, easy solution."Contact Sam Richards at 925-943-8241. Follow him at Twitter.com/samrichardsWC

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