(East Bay Times Editorial) - The June primary election exposed an unacceptable potential for voter fraud in California that the state Legislature must immediately fix.
In just three counties, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara, 194 people voted twice, suggesting the abuse statewide might run into the thousands.
Unfortunately, Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office exacerbated the problem just before the primary election with its questionable reading of an ambiguous law.
Before the November election, he should join efforts to provide safeguards for local election officials so this doesn't happen again.
This isn't one of those conservative pushes to disenfranchise voters; it's a problem that can be solved quickly without making it more difficult to vote. Left unchecked, the vulnerability can be easily exploited.
The problem involves people who sign up to vote by mail, receive a ballot and then request a new one for numerous reasons: For example, they move, they change party registration, they change their name, or they say they didn't receive a ballot or made a mistake marking it. These are situations that apply in all elections.
Or, as seen in the June open primary, they register with no party preference and then want a partisan ballot allowing them to cast a vote for president. While the Republican Party doesn't allow crossover voters, Democrats do. Lots of independent voters wanted to participate in the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton race.
Whatever the reason, voters ended up with two mail-in ballots. They can then mail one in. If they try to mail in the second one, it will be caught.
But some voters took their second ballot to the polls on the primary election day. Under state law, voters can trade their mail-in ballot at the polls for a "live" one. But not if they already voted.
Once marked, live ballots are immediately commingled with others, making it impossible to retrieve those improperly cast. In 2013, Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa's elections chief, recognized the potential problem. To guard against abuse, he required giving these voters "provisional" ballots at the polls.
That allows county election officials to check the names before opening the ballots. The Secretary of State's Office says state law doesn't permit that. Canciamilla disagrees, and we think he's right.
Nevertheless, Contra Costa was directed this year to replace the mail-in ballots with live ones. Consequently, those voters were able to cast a second ballot at the polls with no way to retrieve it when a later review of voter rolls caught the double-voting.
Ideally, poll workers would have real-time, electronic voter rolls to guard against this. The state is working on that. But it's still years away.
Meanwhile, this abuse must be prevented. The integrity of our electoral system is at stake.Read More . . . .