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On the Issue of Ballot Harvesting.

 

In an effort to better understand the procedures and chain of custody of our ballots so that we can feel secure in our voting processes, the following letter was sent to Gregory Diaz, Nevada County Registrar of Voters on March 15 and should arrive in his office on March 18th.  It was sent Certified Return Receipt Requested. 

 

March 13, 2019

Gregory J. Diaz

Registrar of Voters

950 Maidu Avenue, Suite 210

Nevada City, CA 95959

 

Dear Mr. Diaz,

 

As you know the 2018 primary and general elections were the first statewide California elections in which the practice known as ballot harvesting was permitted under state law.  To be clear, I am referencing the changes to Section 3017 of the California Elections Code made by the enactment of AB1921 by the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown in 2016.

 

AB1921 repealed provisions of existing state law that prohibited a vote by mail ballot from being returned by a paid or volunteer worker of a general purpose committee, controlled committee, independent expenditure committee, political party, candidate’s campaign committee, or any other group or organization at whose behest the individual designated to return the ballot is performing a service.  It permits a vote by mail voter to designate any person to return the ballot.

 

The new law does prohibit a person designated to return a vote by mail ballot from receiving any form of compensation based on the number of ballots that the person has returned, and an individual, group, or organization shall not provide compensation on this basis.  Any person in charge of a vote by mail ballot and who knowingly and willingly engages in criminal acts related to that ballot, including, but not limited to, fraud, bribery, intimidation, and tampering with or failing to deliver the ballot in a timely fashion, is subject to the corresponding punishment.

 

Beyond these compensation and fraud related restrictions, the new law is silent on many other aspects of ballot harvesting practices.  Election law changes are a major focus of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat majoring in the House of Representatives.  In fact, H.R.1, is a comprehensive bill affecting many provisions of federal election laws and would have a sweeping impact on our elections.  Given the importance of these issues, I would like to seek clarification from you as Nevada County’s top elections official on how you interpret and are implementing California’s new ballot harvesting law.

  1.  When an individual obtains a vote by mail ballot from a voter and is designated to return it on their behalf, are they required to provide their name, the name of the organization they are working on behalf of or any other identifying information to the voter who is turning over their ballot

  2.  Are individuals who collect vote by mail ballots from voters required to document the ballot’s chain of custody in any way?

  3.  If an individual collects a vote by mail ballot from a voter, are they permitted to turn over that ballot to another individual or organization before it is returned to an authorized voting location? If it is clear that a vote by mail ballot is being dropped off by a person other than the voter – e.g. the person is dropping off more than one ballot – and the envelopes are not signed by the third party, is that documented and is the ballot counted?

  4.  What identifying information does the Nevada County Registrar of Voters collect from an individual who delivers vote by mail ballots on behalf of other voters?

  5.  Does the Nevada County Registrar of Voters document and maintain a list of persons who collect and submit vote by mail ballots for others? If such a list is created, is it subject to public disclosure?

  6.  Is there a numerical threshold in terms of numbers of vote by mail ballots turned in by an individual that triggers an identification requirement? i.e. Is an individual turning in 10 vote by mail ballots required to submit and disclose their personal information? An individual turning in 100 vote by mail ballots? An individual turning in 1,000 vote by mail ballots?

  7.  What are the eligibility qualifications for an individual who collects and returns vote by mail ballots? Do they have to be an eligible voter?

  8.  Are non-California residents eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  9.  Are non-citizens eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  10.  Are foreign nationals in the United States eligible to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  11.  Is there a maximum limit or cap on the number of vote by mail ballots an individual is allowed to collect and return?

  12.  AB 1921 indicates it is unlawful for individuals collecting vote by mail ballots to fail “to deliver the ballot in a timely fashion.” What do you consider to be a timely fashion to return a vote by mail ballot once an individual collects it from a voter?

  13.  Is a political campaign, including paid staff, allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  14.  Is a non-profit organization allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  15. Are businesses, including corporations, allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  16.   Is a labor union allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  17.   Is a church allowed to collect and return vote by mail ballots?

  18.  AB 1921 makes it unlawful for anyone to provide any form of compensation based on the number of vote by mail ballots collected and returned. Are there any other restrictions on compensating individuals collecting and returning vote by mail ballots?

  19.   Are campaigns permitted to hire private outside vendors to conduct vote by mail ballot collection and return activities so long as they do not provide compensation based on the number of ballots collected?

  20.  Are individuals collecting vote by mail ballots required to disclose to the voter turning over their ballot if they are collecting ballots on behalf of an organization or campaign?

  21.  Are individuals collecting vote by mail ballots required to disclose to the voter turning over their ballot if they are being compensated to collect ballots?

  22.  How can a voter that turned over their vote by mail ballot to an individual who indicated they would return it verify whether or not the ballot was returned?

  23.  If a voter that turned over their vote by mail ballot to an individual who indicated they would return it believes the ballot was not submitted in a timely fashion as required by law, what recourse do they have?

  24.  Do you currently document and make public whether a voter cast a ballot in an election and, if they did vote, which method the voter used to cast a ballot. Do you have a new category to document ballots cast utilizing the ballot collection methods authorized by AB 1921?

  25.  When vote by mail ballots are returned by an individual, what procedures do you and your staff follow to ensure the ballots were not tampered with?

  26.  If physical evidence, such as opened and taped envelopes or a high frequency of spoiled ballots, was present in a batch of vote by mail ballots returned by an individual, what steps would you take?

  27. If physical evidence, such as opened and taped envelopes or a high frequency of spoiled ballots, was present in a batch of vote by mail ballots returned by an individual, what steps would you take?

  28.  What language in AB 1921 protects the right to a secret vote?  How does it allow for evidence that the voter has not been coerced or intimidated or that someone else has not voted their ballot?

  29.   In the interest of fair and honest elections, what guidelines are issued from your office regarding precautions to all voters who are considering letting someone else “deliver” their ballot to the authorized voting locations?

  30.   What has been the impact of AB 1921 on your main responsibility as Registrar to guard the honesty and integrity of the election process?

  31. I know you share my goal of protecting the integrity and confidence in our elections process.  I would appreciate responses to these questions and any additional information you would like to provide to me in the near future.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter and your work on behalf of Nevada County residents.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jan Collins

Nevada County Tea Party