An Election Day-eve accusation by a Republican organization of massive, sweeping voter fraud in the 16th Senate District race fizzled Monday after Kern County elections officials reviewed vote-by-mail ballots cast in the race. None of the 26 vote-by-mail ballots alleged to have been hijacked were used to cast a vote. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service had simply returned them, untouched, to the Kern County elections office as undeliverable. Luis Alvarado, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Los Angeles, had bombarded the media over the weekend with claims that his group had uncovered about 30 verified examples of voter fraud in Bakersfield. That, he said, meant that “hundreds, if not thousands, of votes were cast illegally” in the 16th District. The group’s attorney, Ashlee N. Titus, wrote in a statement to the Kern County elections office that the group was “working on a ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign” to fill the state Senate seat when it discovered what it believed was voter fraud. Titus works for the Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk firm, which also represents the California Republican Party.
Alvarado didn’t report the findings to elections officials until nearly noon on Monday, drawing criticism from Kern elections chief Karen Rhea after her subsequent investigation.
“It is unfortunate that the Republican National Hispanic Assembly did not contact our office with their concerns at the outset of their investigation as this would have saved much unnecessary concern,” she said.
Alvarado said the group became concerned after hearing of voters who had returned ballots in the special election even though they hadn’t voted in the 2012 presidential election.
Some votes had been sent, he said, from abandoned homes. One voter, whose ballot packet county records show had been returned to the Kern County elections office, signed an affidavit that he had never cast a vote in the election, Rhea said.
Still other ballot packets were returned from addresses where the registered voter no longer lived.
But Kern County elections officials said there was no fraud. The ballots had been automatically sent to voters who had registered to receive them at those addresses but the voters had moved and so the post office automatically sent them unopened back to elections.