Sacramento, Calif. — California Republicans were trying to quell their own fire a day before voting ends in a recall election against Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, persuading his voters to walk out Tuesday, here. Even party leaders promoted baseless claims that the race was rigged or compromised by misconduct.
Larry Elder, one of the leading Republican candidates seeking to replace Newsom if the recall is successful, has said he believes “there could very well be shenanigans, as of 2020.” It happened in the election.” His campaign website has a link to a “Stop CA Fraud” website where people can report suspicious voting activity or sign a petition calling for a special legislative session to investigate an election that is yet to end. Has happened.
On Monday, former President Donald Trump, who continues to promote lies about his defeat in the 2020 election, issued a statement saying, “Does anyone really believe the California recall election was rigged? “
The message creates problems for Republican Party officials, who are encouraging everyone to vote, as well as promoting a narrative that California’s electoral security cannot be trusted. Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer and Republican National Committeewoman for California, said she made a video with her husband showing how they cast ballots by mail and urged everyone to do the same.
But Dhillon also said she couldn’t say that the California election would be safe and secure, detailing the many problems she said she and a team of lawyers overseeing the election have seen.
“After this election, there will be a lot of questions and possible lawsuits regarding people’s ballot papers and their right to vote,” Dhillon said. “I think people have to get out there and vote. We have to document the problems, and we have to prosecute those problems.”
Much of the GOP’s criticism of California’s election has focused on the widespread use of mail-in ballots, which have been sent automatically to all active registered voters for state elections since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The overwhelming majority of California voters cast ballots by mail even before the pandemic, and no widespread voter fraud has been reported.
As of Saturday, 7.8 million ballots, or about 35% of registered voters, had been cast, according to Political Data Inc., a data firm working with Democrats. Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office, said voting by mail is “reliable, safe and secure.”
“There are detailed protocols in place that ensure the security and verification of all returned votes by postal ballots,” Sanchez said. “The claims disregard and misrepresent those safeguards. As a result, their message may confuse voters and discourage participation.”
The GOP’s plight is similar to last year’s presidential election, when many in the party feared the expansion of mail-in voting during the pandemic would backfire on Trump’s claims about widespread fraud. They worried that his message would convince many Republicans to stay home.
In California, the GOP needs all the help it can get.
The party has only 24% of registered voters, compared to 46.5% for the Democrats. People registered to vote without a political party are roughly equivalent to registered Republicans, but generally align their votes with Democrats. The Republican has not won a statewide office since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger won re-election for governor.
Dhillon pointed to an issue in Los Angeles over the weekend as a piece of evidence fueling voter distrust. In the Woodland Hills neighborhood, some people who came to vote were told they had already voted.
“Whether there is an innocent explanation for this or not, based on facts, rumors spread like wildfire. They are facts that there are errors in voting in Los Angeles County. People see it online and decide that it is not worth voting for,” said Dhillon.
The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office said the error was caused by certain settings on computers used to check voters prior to issuing ballots. The office said those affected were allowed to cast provisional ballots, which serve as placeholders, until voter eligibility is determined.
Republican Party officials say they are working to monitor polling in every county to monitor polling places and county registrars’ offices, where clerks will verify and count ballots. The state GOP is also urging voters to report suspicious polling activity to the party.
The Elder campaign fueled fraud claims over the weekend, pointing to a website that urges people to sign a petition saying he lost an election that isn’t over yet.
“They’re trying to throw battery acid on our Constitution, on our electoral norms,” said Newsom strategist Sean Clegg.
Not all Republicans are accepting the claims. John Cox, a businessman running to replace Newsom, said concerns about voter fraud are “another distraction”.
“Frankly speaking, all this talk about the election not being valid is false because it results in some people deciding not to vote,” Cox said while campaigning outside the Capitol on Monday.
Aside from Republican claims, a group of election security and computer science experts have raised concerns about California’s election system. His warning lies not in claims of widespread fraud, but in the public release of copies of an election management system similar to the ongoing elections in 40 of California’s 58 counties.
The copies were released last month during an event hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump ally who has made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election.
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said the concerns about electoral security were “misunderstood”. The state’s chief electoral officer said California has “the strictest voting system testing, usage procedures, and security requirements in the nation.”
All votes, whether in person, by mail or drop box, will be cast on paper ballots, which can then be counted by hand if there are questions about tally in a county.
Part of the challenge for election officials is the vote counting and vote reporting process, which can lead to changes in results that appear to be going back and forth before the final count is released.
In a state like California, where election officials can begin processing mailed ballots before Election Day, the first batch of results is often from mail-in ballots. He is expected to favor the Democrats a bit. Then there are the results from in-person polling places on Election Day, which is when a high percentage of Republicans generally vote. Finally, late-arriving postal ballots are counted and reported.
Ballots will be counted seven days after the election, as long as they are postmarked by Tuesday.
Local election officials are seeing increased activity from a group of election observers aligned with Republicans, said Donna Johnston, the Sutter County registrar of voters and president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officers.
Johnson said election officials welcome the opportunity to explain to observers and the procedures that ensure election security and integrity. The increase in mistrust, however, is “heartbreaking for us”, she said.
“Election officials take it personally when someone is making the baseless allegations that we are making,” Johnson said.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood contributed to this report.