California: New California Law Strikes Blow to Election Audits | WhoWhatWhy

As the most populous state in the country by far — and a leader in innovations — California is always worth watching. In no situation is that more true than in its attempts to fix its voting system. Sometimes, however, those efforts prove to be entirely counterproductive. In response to reports from US intelligence that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, election officials across the country are striving to fortify their security procedures. In light of all this, many experts were shaking their heads in disappointment after California recently passed a law that election activists are calling “an open invitation to large-scale election fraud.” Earlier this month, a seemingly innocuous bill reached the desk of Governor Jerry Brown (D) after passing the State Assembly and Senate unopposed. Given its ostensible purpose — to allow mail-in voters to re-submit overlooked signatures via email — the lack of scrutiny might have been understandable. However, when the bill was amended before its final Senate vote, its purpose took an unforeseen shift. The altered bill “dramatically reduc[es] the number of ballots counties must include in the [post-election hand count] performed to verify the accuracy of software vote counts,” said the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation in a letter calling for the bill’s veto.

These “manual one-percent tallies,” as they are known in California, require county clerks to examine, by hand, a portion of their electorate’s original paper ballots once they have been electronically tabulated to ensure that the machines’ results are accurate and have not been compromised by problematic software — or malicious interference.

Experts say excluding any ballots from the process defangs it altogether. “Any audit that doesn’t include all ballots in an election is not an audit,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Chief Technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told WhoWhatWhy.

… Given the extensive period California clerks are given to certify their election results, Barbara Simons — president of election activist group Verified Voting — told WhoWhatWhy she didn’t see why the timeliness issue should be a concern. “If we have a month [to certify elections] and we’re still worrying about time, that worries me,” Simons told WhoWhatWhy.

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