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Southern California Election Officials Respond To Issa’s Allegation Of Vote Count Interference

A screenshot of a tweet from Rep. Darrell Issa's campaign account, taken Nov. 16, 2016. The tweet has since been deleted.
KPBS Staff
A screenshot of a tweet from Rep. Darrell Issa's campaign account, taken Nov. 16, 2016. The tweet has since been deleted.
Southern California Election Officials Respond To Issa’s Allegation of Vote Count Interference
Southern California Election Officials Respond To Issa’s Allegation of Vote Count Interference GUEST: Edward Foley, law professor, The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law

North County Congressman Darrell Issa is still eating an account against Doug Applegate. He is taking precautions against an upset in a fund-raising letter to his supporters, which has been taken down from his website Republican Darrell Issa claim that if the election gets within 1% the Democrats will call for a recount and the registrar will be forced to begin counting ballots cast by illegal, unregistered voters. The congressman asked for donations for a recount find. Joining me is Edward Foley , law professor, The Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and author of ballot battles. Welcome to the program. Thank you. In regard to Congressman Darrell Issa that Democrats could force registers to count thousands of ballots in the final result you think he's referring specifically to provisional ballots? Yes, I suspect he is. I don't see how we can claim that unlawful ballots would be counted, but provisional ballots by definition are debatable and they need to be reviewed so I assume that's what he's thinking about. Could thousands of people were not registered to vote claim they are registered and felt with provisional ballots and how those ballots pass review by election officials? No, especially that last point. Provisional ballots are used where there is a disagreement between the voter and the records at the time of the election itself about whether that voter registered or otherwise eligible. The voter things he or she is registered and if he or she is a valid voter that provisional ballot will count as it must. If the voter is mistaken about that and not a registered voter, then the California law like federal law the pellet won't count in that his obligation of the officials to reject an invalid pellet. Our party finds something that happens frequently? Yes, it has to be a close election. It is a relatively small percentage of elections but every election somewhere in the last decade or so has been this sort of fighting. Right now in North Carolina the governor's race is caught up in the same sort of dispute. In Ohio, the election for state Supreme Court justice is caught up in a similar dispute and if you look over the past decade there's been other races and other statewide races that had this dynamic and play. So the idea of the claim of illegal unregistered voters are going to get their ballots cast is not typical. What are the typical types of disputes that campaigns have over provisional ballots? Broke some states like Ohio and California allow voters to update their voter registration on election day and cast a provisional ballot. We are already registered voter that within the same county so they move from one apartment to another. That causes a high incidence of these provisional voting compared to some other states. They have to be evaluated but they get checked out and that's why California historically has had a high percentage of ballots in the past. It's almost unnecessary to say that the stakes involved are highly political. How do provisional ballots usually break in favor of Republicans or Democrats? They tend to break in 10 -- for Democrats because Democratic voters are the more mobile population. So more likely a democratic voter is going to get caught up in one of the reasons for a need to vote provisionally. That is true around the country. You have to evaluate the validity of the ballot but they break in favor of Democrats. Can provisional ballots bring in an election quick Yes, they have in the past. It is an equal vote just like any other so it doesn't count for any more than any other valid vote but counted later in the process. You do have the dynamic sometimes in a very close election where one is on top and tell the provisional ballots get counted and then the provisional ballots to put the other candidate over the top. We contacted Darrell Issa and they said these claims were just made in the fund-raising letter. Is a typical for campaigns to claim that provisional ballots had been cast by illegal unregistered voters? I haven't seen up until this year the kind of rhetoric that we are seeing now. It is not unique to California. Ohio has a similar notice that when out by Republican officials concerning the statewide election for Supreme Court that also referred to the risk that illegal ballots would be counted and referring to the possibility of provisional balance being counted so while I can't say for sure my conjecture is that this kind of rhetoric is a result of the campaign that we saw were allegations of vote rigging and election rigging wrapped up in a way that we have not seen previously. Even though it is not applying in the presidential election, that rhetoric is carrying over into the closed races that are either in recounts or potentially in a recount mode. I've been speaking with Edward Foley and author of ballot battles. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Registrars of voters in Southern California are defending the vote count in a tight congressional race after incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, questioned its validity.

Issa is ahead of challenger Doug Applegate by two percentage points with about 20,000 more provisional ballots to be counted. In a fundraising email, Issa claimed liberals are trying to steal the election and that if his lead shrinks, they could "force the Registrars to allow thousands of illegal, unregistered voters to influence the election,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In a post on Twitter, the Republican congressman asked followers, “Can you help me make sure this election isn’t stolen?” It included a link to a letter on his campaign website, but the tweet and letter have since been deleted.

San Diego County Registrar Michael Vu denied that he could be coerced into adding unregistered voters’ provisional ballots in the certified results.

"We’ll be verifying every single provisional ballot that was cast and determine whether it was eligible to be counted," Vu said.

Reached by phone, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley echoed the sentiment.

“If they’re not a registered voter, they’re not going to be counted. It doesn’t matter how close the contest is,” Kelley said.

The congressional district overlaps both counties.

Calvin Moore, a spokesman for the Issa campaign, said he is confident votes will be tallied correctly but reviewing voter eligibility is common practice in tight elections.

“In a close race, it's standard practice for both teams to have legal experts help review provisionals to be sure everything is square,” he wrote in an email to KPBS. “The legal teams review ballots — and both teams do this — and raise a ‘challenge’ to provisional ballots that appear to be from voters outside the district or in some other way needs further review by the ROV to ensure the ballot was legally cast.”

Issa’s email called on supporters to help fund this review, according to a version of the letter shared by the Seaside Courier.

Issa is up by 4,576 votes. There are 8,000 provisional ballots left to be tallied in Orange County, Kelley said. In San Diego, Vu said approximately 11,000 to 13,000 provisional votes need to be counted.