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What you need to know about voter fraud in California

CalMatter voter fraud.PNG
Michaela Vatcheva/CalMatters
Alicia Little, an election services specialist, tests the logic and accuracy of an accessible voting machine called ICX at the Contra Costa County Elections Department on Sept. 30, 2022

You’re hearing a lot more about election integrity — for a lot of reasons.

Since the 2020 election, the issue has been fueled by the “Big Lie” — the baseless claim still touted by former President Donald Trump and his allies that the election was stolen — and the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath.

Questioning election integrity has also become a political strategy: In the effort last year to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, Republican candidate Larry Elder said he was concerned about fraud and started a website to collect tips even before the votes were counted.

While experts agree that there is no widespread voter fraud and California Secretary of State Shirley Weber told CalMatters there is no evidence of frequent instances, there have been scattered attempts to cheat. In 2020, for example, the California Republican Party admitted placing more than 50 fake ballot drop boxes in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties. In August 2021, during the recall election, a 34-year-old man stole 300 ballots from a Postal Service vehicle in Torrance as part of a bank fraud and identity theft scheme. The ballots, which were unopened, were canceled and new ones sent to the voters.

For this election, both the state Democratic Party and state Republican Party have their own election integrity and voting resources websites.

There are a number of checks and balances to ensure no one can game the system. The Secretary of State’s office and the 58 county election offices say they are working to reassure voters that voting systems are secure.

“I think you have to stay concerned because if you ever get to the point where you’re not concerned and you’re not looking at everything and you’re not listening to everything, then that’s when you end up with a number of problems,” said Weber, who took over as the state’s chief election officer in January 2021.

Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the state has one of the most secure voting processes in the country.

“There’s a big difference between what you might imagine could happen and what actually does happen,” she said. “I’m certainly not hoping that voters will just blindly follow whatever their elections officials say. That’s not how democracy works. But election officials bend over backwards to make the process as transparent and accessible as possible.”

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