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Joe Biden Looks To California For His Running Mate

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Above: Vice President Joe Biden swears in Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, while her husband Doug Emhoff holds a long-kept family Bible.

The presidential election matchup is set as Joe Biden chooses California Senator Kamala Harris as his democratic running mate, a local Republican leader rails against voting by mail despite a long history of doing so himself, and the push for more enforcement of COVID-19 public health orders.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Because in his Democrat, Joe Biden announces his presidential running mate, how Senator Kamala Harris, his rise through California's political machine led to this historic choice. Hysteria in hypocrisy over something voters have been doing for decades. The Republican fight against Malin ballots, even as party leaders has their own. And as the time for education over local leaders demand more enforcement of COVID-19 health orders. I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS round table starts. Now

Speaker 2: 00:38 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:42 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the remote KPBS round table today. Andrew Keats assistant editor at voice of San Diego KPBS, investigative reporter, Amica Sharma and watchdog reporter Morgan cook of the San Diego union Tribune. Donald Trump has been screaming in capital letters on Twitter and stating it the interviewers, especially those not likely to correct him. Quote 2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history. Why extensive use of mail in ballots? Trump's false claims are echoed by conservative political leaders across the country, including here in San Diego. Joining me to explain what's going on is Andrew Keats assistant editor at voice of San Diego. Welcome back to the round table, Mark. Thanks for having me. Well, your story on this focuses on the election message mailed out by Tony Clark. He's the chairman of the Republican party in San Diego County.

Speaker 1: 01:36 It's kind of pull the string and outcomes Donald Trump, right? Yeah. I guess you could say that he's certainly, uh, has, has the talking points and is following them to a T and a really interesting here is you're reporting on the hypocrisy of it all. Guess who regularly votes by mail? Yeah, so this was actually something I had. I had come across before a Tony [inaudible] press release. He had been tweeting for the last few months about the fraud that was going to be coming through mail and voting. I'm saying a few months ago that the whole process was fraught with danger. So I asked the registrar of voters for the voting records on Tony [inaudible] and I found that he had voted by mail in 22 consecutive elections. He has a perfect voting record. He has voted in the 24 elections that he has lived in San Diego for the last 22 of those. He voted by mail. So I sent him an email and I said, can you help me reconcile your position that voting is voting by mail is fraught with danger and your decision to do it 22 consecutive times. And then before responding to me, he sent out a press release saying that vote by mail was fraught with danger and then included at the bottom of that press release a little section called background in which he acknowledged that he himself had voted 22 times. So it got that out in front. It, he got out

Speaker 3: 03:00 In front of that one. Yes, exactly.

Speaker 4: 03:01 Now we sh we should note that Tony Clark announced this week, he's leaving his role as Republican party chair in the County. So what was his response then when you pointed out that he votes by mail? Why is it okay for him and Trump and not everybody else?

Speaker 3: 03:15 Well, basically he said that he is diligent about it, that when he votes by mail, he requests a ballot. He tracks it until it comes to his house. And once he sends it in, he tracks it until they receive it. Presumably I suppose this is a level of diligence that he says that he does not believe could be afforded to the public as a whole. Um, and so he says that vote by mail should be handled on a case by case basis, uh, is what he said in an email to me. And presumably that case by case basis would in all instances apply to his case

Speaker 4: 03:49 Because it's so a right for the possibility of fraud. But isn't that just a lot of hooey. I mean, after all multiple studies involving millions of ballots cast by mail and recent election show, no more than a handful of cases involving fraud, right? Yeah.

Speaker 3: 04:02 The, the attempts to find, uh, corroborated cases of voting fraud at all, male voting fraud specifically have repeatedly come up empty, even, you know, even the conservative heritage project keeps what it calls a tracker of, uh, substantiated instances of male voting fraud. It found one instance in all of California that was not in San Diego County. It was in an LA area where a city manager was sort of holding back certain mail ballots that came in and releasing only those that were seen as, as beneficial. And he was prosecuted. So, uh, and that is the one case that has been substantiated in California by a very partisan effort to substantiate the concern in the first place, uh, the straightforward academic attempts to substantiate it, show that there just really isn't much evidence for it. And moreover that the principles of validating mail ballots are basically identical to those of validating in-person ballots. Um, as Michael VU, the registrar voters told me there's just, no, no one is any safer than the other. They have very, very similar, uh, validation procedures. And it's just not a concern.

Speaker 4: 05:20 It's interesting news. Now that a federal judge in Pennsylvania has told the Trump campaign and the Republican party, they've got to produce evidence of a vote by mail fraud by Friday. This was a Trump appointed judge. So these lawsuits are starting to play out around the country that was brought by the Democrats and the Sierra club. But, uh, the extensive steps steps are taken. As you note in your story to, to guard against fraud. Don't they check every voter signature.

Speaker 3: 05:44 Yeah. They check every voter signature, uh, you know, the vote, the signature that is on file. When you registered a vote is matched up against the signature that comes on the ballot when you mail it in. That's also the same thing that they do to validate in person voting procedures, uh, ballots that are sent out to people also have a unique bar code, so that if some, you know, if you say that you lost your ballot and you request another one, uh, it's going to have the same bar code. You're not able to just request 10 ballots, fill them all in and send them back and get them all counted. The system recognizes that immediately kicks out all, but the first one that comes in and, and the, you know, the registrar would follow up with you in some instances, even referring that action to the district attorney for potential prosecution, if there was evidence of intentional malfeasance and, you know, these are the, these aren't, it's not that the system is full proof.

Speaker 3: 06:35 It is not that there is it's impossible for there to be a mistake or something along those lines. No system is without any error. The problem is, and what experts have found is if there was systemic voter fraud, if there was some attempt to meaningfully alter results through a coordinated effort, there would be some evidence of it. We would see it not just in unique instances, but we would see it regularly. And instead there, there just doesn't seem to be any evidence of that at all. You know, basically means the systems work, even if they're not completely,

Speaker 4: 07:08 Trump said on Fox this week, he will block Democrats requests for aid to the postal service, because that would facilitate mail and balloting. Isn't he saying the quiet part out loud out sabotaging the MailBoat.

Speaker 3: 07:21 I think he sort of gave away the game there. You're supposed to say, this is about preventing fraud, not disenfranchising voters. Um, and you know, the U S P S of course has no distinct role in preventing fraud. They simply deliver the ballots to people's homes. And then the completed ballots back to the registrar, depriving them of money. I can see no way in which that would play into fraud.

Speaker 4: 07:45 Trump is telegraphing that there, should he be ahead on election night based mostly in in-person voting mail and votes counted after election day should be discarded, but explain why California and other States with heavy balloting by mail, we had three out of four votes in the primary in this County, a sent in by mail. Why does it take so much time?

Speaker 3: 08:03 Well, because precisely these reasons that, uh, that, uh, that they use to prevent fraud, you know, the reason mail ballots takes so long to count. And the reason why we spend so much time in San Diego, in California, for weeks after the election releasing, you know, you know, sort of frustratingly, small batches of counted votes is because they're matching up every signature to the voter file. That's the process that takes so long. That's the process that makes the system secure. And so there is a sort of contradiction in demanding that the results be in before election night and also, you know, sort of insinuating that the system is rife with potential for fraud. When it is precisely the lengthy process that is in place to ensure that fraud does not occur.

Speaker 4: 08:48 That's why the media is being told by many experts on elections to explain to voters why this election night likely deliver results,

Speaker 1: 08:56 As we normally are accustomed to because of we're in a pandemic, and we're going to expect more mail in ballots all over the country, not just in places like San Diego County, which has pretty much used to this. Now, Trump claims a delayed result as evidence of fraud. What might all this mean for the post November 3rd national debate? Uh, put your, your crystal ball hat on here. Well, I guess I, I guess the short answer is, I don't know, here in San Diego and here in California, we have a long history of using vote by mail. We have a long history of taking a while to certify election results. I don't see any good reason that California would run into any real problems. Question is what about a state or a County that has an official, who is sympathetic to some of these claims, you know, and then ultimately what happens if this becomes a legal matter?

Speaker 1: 09:49 And it goes before judges and what those judges think about the question. So that all becomes very hard to untangle. I do think though it is safe to say here in California and here in San Diego specifically, I don't, I don't think there's going to be much room for this sort of monkeying around with the process because it's sort of old hat here. There will be some changes. This there's universal mail voting for the first time here. Um, as opposed to simply requesting a mail ballot for any reason, but as you say, 70% of people in March voted by mail. So moving from 70% to a hundred percent is a difference of degree, not category. Well, I'll tell you, it's plenty for us in the media here to stay on top of, and we're going to be doing a lot of stories on this as we move on toward November 3rd, I've been speaking with Andrew Keech assistant editor at voice of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 10:38 Thanks very much. Thanks Mark. Joe Biden next week will be formerly nominated at a democratic national convention. Like no other, a white guy heading a major party ticket is nothing new, but a woman who was the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica in India, running as vice president. Well, that's historic California's junior Senator Kamala Harris was Biden's along the way to choice and joining me to look at what that means. Just KPBS, investigative reporter I'm Etha Sharma Amica. Welcome back to the round table. It's good to be with you, Mark. I meet the start with the impact of naming a woman as a running mate, especially a woman whose parents were immigrants, and you have a personal perspective on this as well.

Speaker 5: 11:18 I do well, first of all, I think that the, the impact will prove to be huge. And that's partly because Kamala Harris has this very rich narrative of living the American dream. As you mentioned, she's the child of immigrants who came here to the United States and it's treat great Heights. They really accomplished a lot for data's from Jamaica. As you mentioned, became an economics professor at Stanford university. Her mom was from India. She was a cancer researcher and she herself died of cancer back in 2008. Her and dad met as graduate students that UC Berkeley and Kamala Harris has pointed out that her parents were both civil rights activists. And, you know, since you asked Mark, I'll just add this on a more personal note. I'm also the child of Indian immigrants. And I remember reading a piece on Kamala Harris is when his da in the early two thousands.

Speaker 5: 12:17 And I remember telling my dad, she's going to run for president Sunday. You watch, and she might just win. And I remember him saying that will never ever happen. This country will never elect a woman to be president. And, you know, as you know, Mark, my dad passed away last fall, and I feel so badly so badly that he didn't live to see this moment. I think he just would have beamed. Um, but I did share the news with my mom who has Alzheimer's. She has middle stages. Alzheimer's she got it. She understood how monumental this moment was. And she positively glowed after I told her.

Speaker 4: 13:06 Now you were a moderator of a candidates debate that aired on public broadcasting stations when Harris was running for us Senate in 2016, what were your impressions of her during that debate event?

Speaker 5: 13:17 Well, you know, it's interesting Mark, our debate, I think, was her first as a political candidate for a non prosecutorial position because she had run for GA before that and run for state Agee before that. And despite that she was, she was smooth during the debate at KPBS. She came across as tough, smart, experienced. Now she didn't answer a key question I had about her investigation into who was going to pay for, um, the Santa, no free nuclear power plant closure and, and who should pay for it. And some shenanigans surrounding that. But that said she had major presence on the stage. She was completely at ease, but, um, forceful at the same time.

Speaker 4: 14:06 Now, progressives have long criticized Harris, especially during her run for president last year, a lot of specific cases there, but, uh, give us the overview of liberals, say she was unfair and several decisions involving wrongful prosecutions. And you wrote some critical stories for KPBS on that.

Speaker 5: 14:23 Yeah. The knock on her from progresses is that when she was San Francisco, da, she hardly ever prosecuted cops in officer involved shootings, but she also took a ton of heat from folks, including I think Senator Dianne Feinstein for not pursuing the death penalty against a man who had killed a police officer. I read a poll recently that said 87% of Bernie Sanders voters would Biden. And I think it was something like 96% of Elizabeth Warren supporters, backbiting. And I believe their thinking is that the country will not survive another four years of Donald Trump as president.

Speaker 4: 15:07 So the reaction from Donald Trump to the Harris choice has been astounding. Even for him, he's being called a racist and a liar in a New York times headline and lead. For example, explain what's going on.

Speaker 5: 15:17 This is all very familiar. I mean, from the moment Biden picked Harris as his running mate, Trump has been on a tear where she's concerned. He has called her angry, nasty, mad woman. And then yesterday the attacks on her took a turn, a familiar turn when his campaign advisor retweeted a column written by a law professor questioning whether Harris was even eligible to be vice president, um, because of her parents' immigration status at the time Harris was born. So now people who study constitutional law are saying anyone who is born in the United States is an automatic U S citizen. And as you and I had discussed Mark over the years, this has a very familiar ring to it. Trump has been a birther for years. He repeated the lie that president Obama wasn't born in the United States and therefore didn't qualify to be president. So we're back there again.

Speaker 4: 16:18 And finally, should Harrison Biden win in November, California, governor Gavin Newsome is going to have a big choice to make of his own, her replacement. Uh, he gets to nominate someone already a lot of speculation. What's your thoughts on that?

Speaker 5: 16:31 Well, it's, it's kind of funny. I think Newsome was asked by a reporter this week about whether people had already started asking him to put their names in as potential replacements, um, for Harris. And he told the reporter, I think you're the only one who hasn't asked and I didn't know it. So I think it's fair to say that there is a ton of interest in this seat. Um, I think it will be difficult for Newsome not to pick a woman. Women are going to be reluctant to relinquish that seat to a man, but also there will be a lot of pressure on Newsome to choose a Latino. There are some names that have been put out there. Uh, Congresswoman Katie Porter of Irvine is one of those names, long beach mayor. Robert Garcia, uh, is also out there. And then there's San Francisco mayor London breed, who is African American

Speaker 4: 17:29 At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves. A Biden does also said if he gets a Supreme court opening, uh, he will pick a black woman. Maybe he picks Kamala Harris and somebody else moves in as his vice president, all sorts of things though, uh, laying out there and speculation of things to talk about in the future. Lots of possibilities. I've been speaking KPBS, investigative reporter Amica Sharma. Thanks Samantha. Thank you, Mark. Governor Gavin Newsome says California might be turning a corner after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases yet there's still plenty of dangerous behavior out there. People gathering in large groups without face coverings and businesses staying open and blatant defiance of public health orders at the local level city and County officials say it's time to give enforcement powers, some teeth joining us to talk about these frustrations as Morgan cook investigative reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. Hi Morgan. Thanks for joining us. Hey, nice to be here. Well, you illustrated this conflict in a story out of ocean beach, what's happening there and why is the city so concerned?

Speaker 6: 18:32 So for several weeks, hundreds of people have been gathering on Wednesday night in this, uh, in the veteran's Plaza park. It's this little park near the pier in ocean beach, and they've been coming sort of as an extension of the farmer's market, but the farmer's market has nothing to do with the action in this little park. And so they've had drum circles and fire dancing and very, you know, kind of noisy things. People, lots of people crowded together, not wearing their masks and people in the residents who live there are not excited about it.

Speaker 4: 19:08 Now the city tried to put up a fence around that park you're talking about, but that really didn't last very long.

Speaker 6: 19:14 Right, right. Um, it lasted a few hours. They put a fence up and then I guess one or more people who were, you know, very frustrated about the public health issues just cut it down. And so there was a tense situation that I'd folded when city, when a city council member, Jennifer Campbell came to speak there and other city officials, uh, there was a lot of shouting

Speaker 4: 19:40 For Campbell and she's a physician isn't known for being the most outspoken member of the San Diego city council. Uh, but she put out an impassioned plea for people to take this more seriously. What was her message there? Midweek.

Speaker 6: 19:52 She was saying that it is time for the city and the County to get serious about enforcement because you know, people have been openly defying the public health orders, you know, whether it's this drum circle or at their, uh, businesses that are, you know, staying open and defiance of the order. And it's sort of, you know, that, that sort of thing is getting more visible. And I think that that really worries, council member counts Campbell because, um, you know, as a public health person, as a doctor, you know, she, she is really worried that it will result in the virus spreading and it will cause more people to violate the public health order. If they feel like they can do that with impunity. And then the virus will just spread more and we will have lost all of this ground that we've gained. Like our numbers are looking good. Things are looking good these days. Um, and I think that she, a doctor is worried about people's health and she's worried about losing the ground that we've gained. And she, uh, she thinks that it's time to get serious

Speaker 4: 20:54 And all eyes were on the OB Wednesday night when the next drum circle took place. After that a fence incident, was there a noticeable difference? Did the city have to take any action?

Speaker 6: 21:05 The city was there. So city workers were there, County workers were there a couple hundred people were dancing, you know, together in the drum circle, but they weren't really doing enforcement. They were, you know, asking people to wear masks, handing out masks, asking people to social distance. And they definitely reserved the right to hand out citations, but it didn't seem like they were doing that. Or at least not on any sort of large scale.

Speaker 4: 21:32 Now, can the council step in and kind of back her play on this standard standardized approach to enforcement? Is there real power to get police to do more on this issue

Speaker 6: 21:42 That the council would need? The council needs to take action, right? So they need to act to create a citation and then fix the fine that would go along with it. And so she, I think she was talking about, you know, creating a citation at the city level, which we kind of forced the issue. I would think

Speaker 4: 22:00 Now, aside from these gatherings we've been talking about no, be gyms have also been a problem. COVID-19 outbreak was linked to a gym in Pacific beach, which remained in defiance of health orders, UT and other sources of reporting on gyms and university Heights and Ramona where owners have stayed open in their defiance. Uh, these are businesses, uh, understandably they're afraid they won't be able to recover financially and all this, but as part of this also political with business owners claiming government overreach.

Speaker 6: 22:30 Oh, I think absolutely, definitely. That is the case. I mean, there are masks have become a political statement, you know, as sort of politics have kind of invaded this whole issue that, you know, at its core is a public health issue, but you know, the politics and it have sort of shaped the situation and made it, you know, as, as tense as it is now. And in my opinion, at least, and you know, the, the public officials are trying to walk this fine line of, you know, trying to give people as much leashes. They can, you know, they're trying to make that possible while still trying to hold the reins, you know, and keep it kind of pulled back because, you know, I feel like it is totally fair for people to be really frustrated if their whole, everything they've worked for for their business is just falling apart. You know? And they don't see bodies in the street. Like I, I get that. And I think that they get that too. But at the same time, if we don't protect everybody, nobody is safe when it comes to a virus like this and other people want their freedom back. They want to have the virus knocked down. They want us to, to control it so that we can have more freedom back. Everybody can. So it's, you know, it's difficult. It's a balance.

Speaker 4: 23:48 Well, it is. And that's, uh, getting at my, uh, my final question here, which is about the frustration on all this. There don't seem to be unified rules, countywide rules, you've got different cities. You've got the County itself, the, uh, ebb and flow of the COVID cases. We, uh, we hit a situation with a lot of outbreaks and then things seem to get a little better and why can't we loosen it up and get the businesses back going? Uh, we're just so fragmented. And it reminds me of a war time and we're things are fluid and changing all the time. And it's very difficult for people to know the rules.

Speaker 6: 24:20 Yeah. I mean, it certainly has been described as a war on this virus and, and, you know, in some ways it acts like it, there no there restrictions on daily life, which, you know, I mean, it's, it's hard for people. It's hard for me, it's hard for everybody, but it's, you know, it's important to slow the spread of this disease. So we don't see bodies in the street and, you know, it's, it's tough. It's really tough.

Speaker 4: 24:46 Yeah. We're going to, of course, see this play out in the last 80 or so days we have here in this national election, in this national debate. And of course there's elections throughout this County and cities and States and places across America. So I'm sure every community is dealing with this and we're going to see the politicians and the voters weigh in come November.

Speaker 6: 25:07 Yeah. I don't think I've ever been more happy to not be an elected official. And I'm usually pretty happy that I'm not an elected official, but now I'm really, really happy because it was just gotta be so hard. I mean, it's so hard for everybody.

Speaker 4: 25:21 You pay the, pay the cost to be the boss.

Speaker 6: 25:24 Yeah. I would not want that kind of responsibility. Yeah.

Speaker 4: 25:27 I've been speaking with Morgan cook investigative reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks, Morgan. Thank you so much for having me that wraps up another edition of the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Andrew Keats, a voice of San Diego Amica Sharma of KPBS news and Morgan cook of the San Diego union Tribune. If you ever miss a show, you can catch up on the round table podcast available on your favorite podcast app. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening today and join us again next week on the round table.

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.