An email sent this week by the Yolo County Republican Party to its members claimed there’s “great potential for fraud” in the upcoming election — an unsubstantiated allegation that was adamantly rejected Tuesday by the county’s top elections official.
“With all of the many changes for voting on November 3rd, and the great potential for fraud, here is a list of the best ways you can cast your vote on November 3rd,” reads the email, which was forwarded to CapRadio by a reader who said they believed it was misleading.
It goes on to urge Republicans to vote in-person rather than by mail, saying that method is the “best and safest way to vote.”
By contrast, election officials across the state are encouraging all voters to turn in their ballots by mail or use an authorized ballot drop box — rather than standing in line during a pandemic.
“We do NOT recommend mailing your ballot, as it does not get counted on election night, could allow candidates to ‘pad’ their vote using fraudulent means, or could fall victim to other forms of fraud. The safest way to cast your vote is always in person,” the email added.
Yolo County Registrar of Voters Jesse Salinas described the party’s email as “putting out fear and disinformation.”
He said election officials use a thorough signature verification process to prevent fraud with mail-in ballots.
“We are very confident in our process to make sure that there is not broad fraud or any kind of padding that may exist that’s being claimed,” Salinas said.
Election experts say there is no evidence of systemic mail-in voting fraud in the United States. Several studies have examined the practice and found an extremely low rate of fraud, including a 5-year investigation by the George W. Bush administration that turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.
"Election fraud of all sorts is rare. There is a slightly less rare instance of voter fraud by absentee balloting," Charles Stewart, co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, which analyzes election systems, told us in June. "There are greater temptations and opportunities. Nonetheless, they are rare."
Salinas added that mail-in ballots are processed as soon as they arrive and, contrary to what the email says, constitute the first early results released on election night shortly after 8 p.m.
That doesn’t mean all mail-in ballots make it into the early results.
While election officials across the region recommend mailing your ballot at least a week early (which would be by Oct. 27), a new state law requires counties to count every mail-in ballots that arrives up to 17 days after Election Day as long as it’s postmarked by Nov. 3.
In an interview on Tuesday, Yolo County Republican Party Chairman Dan Brown said his party stands by the allegations in the email.
He added there are loopholes in the signature verification process such as allowing voters to use an ‘X’ on the signature line.
Voters with disabilities are allowed to use a mark in place of a signature as long as an adult witness writes down the full name of the person who is voting along with their own name on the outside of the ballot envelope, as allowed under the California Elections Code.
“I don’t think there’s a legitimate risk of fraud here,” said Paul Spencer, voting rights attorney for the legal services group Disability Rights California.
More information about how Californians with disabilities can vote is here.
Additional answers to questions about California’s mail-in voting procedures is available here.
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