George Michael’s lyrics to “Secret Love” come to mind as I watched the ballot bedlam after the closing of a Fullerton precinct June 5th.
As a volunteer poll observer for Election Integrity Project California (EIPCa), I stayed after the polls closed to witness Orange County Registrar Office’s procedures for the “sealed” ballot box. The poll workers are to remove the seals and open the ballot box, sort and count the various types of ballots and then place them in another box that is sealed for ultimate delivery to the ballot collection center.
I applaud the actions of the poll inspector and workers in trying to follow the written procedures and ultimately calling the Registrar’s office for assistance. The ensuing process certainly jeopardizes ballot integrity.
There were approximately 325 mail-in ballots, 80 provisional ballots, several “surrendered” mail-in ballots and a few paper ballots. These ballots were removed from the “sealed” ballot box for counting and in the process handled several times. They were then to be placed in a white ballot box which proved much too small for the large number of ballots.
Challenged, the poll inspector called for assistance and a representative of the Registrar’s office arrived to handle the situation. He stuffed the top of the box with all the ballots to the point that the sides were bulging and then had to disassemble the box bottom and jury-rig a top using copious amounts of duct tape. Then he placed the red and white seal tape over this fantasy—no longer representing a satisfactorily sealed ballot box.
Ultimately the box was placed in the poll inspector’s trunk to be transported to another location to be removed from her car and placed in another vehicle to be driven to the ballot collection center. My goal was to follow this transportation but aborted when I had an accident. Who knows how many hands this box went through on its journey.
Was ballot integrity jeopardized? I don’t know but there are too many loopholes in this system.
1. The red and white seal was too small to adequately seal the jury-rigged box. A secure method should have been utilized such as providing a second ballot box and seal.
2. The red and white seal is reusable! It can be removed and replaced at will without damaging it. Anyone could open a ballot box to gain access to the ballots and then reseal without discovery. The Registrar’s office needs to provide tape that cannot be reused.
3. Why do poll workers open the original ballot box and sort and count ballot envelopes? This should only be done under secure observation at the ballot collection center
The goal of EIPCa is to provide observation of election polls to assure that processes are followed and the ultimate security of your vote. In November, we need more volunteer poll observers. Go to EIPCa for more information.