The day after the June 8 primary election, Riverside County election officials found more than 12,500 mail votes that had been misplaced through miscommunication between election officials and the US Postal Service. Initially, the Registrar of Voters refused to count them. For some days, an attempt was made to forge a political consensus among county officials that the votes must be counted. This was unsuccessful. Amazingly, some members of the Board of Supervisors had such contempt for voters as to prefer that the votes not be counted, or even run through a preliminary tally.
Several individuals and the Democratic Party Central Committee filed suit to force the counting of the ballots. Our own party took part in the consultations, but we did not have a clear cause of action for joining in the lawsuit, while the Democrats had one State Senate contest and one Central Committee contest that appeared likely to be decided by the not-yet-counted votes. So we, and other parties, expressed our support for the suit without joining it.
On Friday, July 9, Judge Mac R. Fisher ruled that the uncounted votes must be counted. They are being counted as I write this, and we can expect results by tonight or tomorrow. But the votes must also be incorporated in the vote totals certified by the Board of Supervisors in order for this fight to be successful. We now expect this to happen.
This incident has revealed some failings in current state law, that should make much more explicit the right of each voter to have every vote counted. It also points up the need to rescind the change from an elected Registrar of Voters to an appointee controlled by the Supervisors. The present Registrar, like her predecessor, has been beholden to the Supervisors who appoint her, has overseen bungle after bungle and boondoggle after boondoggle, but has been backed throughout by a majority of the Supervisors whose bidding she does. She pays no heed to concerns expressed by voters and by their representatives in the leadership of political parties. If the Registrar of Voters again becomes an elected position, we can expect a much more responsive and careful Registrar, no matter who holds the position.
Some changes in state law that could prevent similar situations in the future would include these:
The addition to the State Constitution of a right to have your vote counted.
A change in vote deadlines, requiring the counting of all mail votes postmarked on or before election day, even if they take more than a week to be delivered. Democracy should not be dependent on postal speed and efficiency.
Further changes that would enhance democracy in California would include an Election Day holiday, and moving to proportional representation from multi-member districts in electing the Assembly and State Senate, so that all significant points of view will be represented in the Legislature.Kevin Akin
California State Chair
Peace and Freedom Party
July 10, 2010