People Were Impacted by Voter Irregularities

VBM-BallotBy Donna Davies

In addition to the Vanguard, the only other major news outlet in this valley which picked this story up was KFBK. (Enterprise, Press Democrat and Sacbee have been silent. Shame on them). KFBK exercised good journalistic judgment and interviewed Jesse Salinas and elections staff before writing this news brief:

Voter Raises Concern About Yolo County Ballot Return Envelope With Flap Flaw
Posted June 8th, 2016 @ 5:15pm by KFBK News – Ryan Harris

A potential problem with a batch of mail-in ballot return envelopes had a voter worried several thousand votes might not be counted.

The issue with some of the envelopes, a flap that could tear and expose the signature, was brought to the Yolo County Registrar’s attention by a voter, who claimed it could affect more than 50,000 ballots.

Registrar Jesse Salinas says it was put on the envelopes as a courtesy to help you protect your privacy, but it is not something that has to be there.

“I have staff that have been doing this for 30 years,” Salinas said. “They have shared that this is a courtesy that Yolo had provided, and there were other counties, and they referenced Sacramento County, as not having this privacy, courtesy covering like we have.”

Salinas says voters were given several options if they were worried, like using tape to keep the flap in place or dropping off the ballot at a polling place or drop box.

Salinas says it could affect as many as 3,000 or 4,000 ballot return envelopes, which were leftover from a previous election and used up this time, but he says in no way will that flap be the reason any votes will not be counted.


However, Jesse Salinas’ response, as embedded in what ultimately ran above, was not only unfactual and incomplete, he attempted to deflect with a false equivalency to the VBM packets in Sacramento County, and the entire response was unhelpful, insulting and demoralizing to thousands of affected VBM voters.

Salinas and elections staff (including predecessor registrar of voters-turned HRC campaign operative Freddie Oakley’s son, who still works there and led the unit during a 6 month vacancy leading up to this repeat mess) are deflecting responsibility, cloaking the widespread nature of this debacle, making up unsatisfactory excuses, distorting the issues, and attempting to assuage the unassuageable:

1. knowingly sending out defective envelopes season after season

2. knowingly putting our ballots at risk for tampering, disqualification, disappearance, and observation of our voting preferences as matched with our identities as voters

3. knowingly putting our sensitive voter data including name, address, and wet signatures at risk for lifting

4. knowingly sending out party preference ballots that they knew would have to be surrendered for provisional ballots (provisional ballots aren’t counted until upwards of 30 days after the election, if at all.)

We were out here, en másse, with compromised VBM envelopes (which even a city council member in a totally different city than mine said affected him and remarked that he was quite sure this was a “HUGE” systemic issue) and Yolo County elections is holding firm to a downplay of the problem. They were, in fact, concealing the problem until one voter (myself) finally piped up, dug a little deeper, and exposed a long standing pattern. Then, and only then, when confronted about a long internally known issue and questioned about it, they deflect responsibility with a suggestion that the remedy for voters who were unhappy about their defective envelopes was to come in and surrender their DEM, REP, other party preference and no preference ballots and vote on provisional ballots in person (on Tuesday Jun 7 only) or in person at Yolo County elections since the corrupted VMB packets were mailed out.

Why weren’t we given proper and uncompromised/uncompromisable VBM ballot packets, when this division had plenty of awareness of the problem in prior elections, plenty of time to correct the matter and reduce our exposure to risk of miscounts/no counts? Why when they “innocently” continued to send out these trainwrecks to supposedly save voters money on old supplies, did they not publish a printed remedy in the new voter information sample ballot books or on the corrupted envelopes? One byline would have done before these went through the address generating printers. One line of print. That doesn’t cost a thing. So we’re not buying it; the excuse that it was a cost matter when they re-ordered the same exact defective envelopes and put them through the same allegedly faulty printer that dislodged the security flaps.

And this doesn’t even touch the widespread reports of people who didn’t even get their VBM packets, who –upon discovery of their missing ballots (assuming there was time remaining in the election)– had to report and obtain a provisional ballot.

Everybody knows that provisional ballots are sketchy business. Millions in our state alone have gone uncounted. They are counted last, if counted at all, and long after elections are called in the media. It’s patently obvious the strategy is to silence the vote or –in the case of a cheap unworkable response such as the one Yolo County Elections was proposing to us– to delay the vote until it’s too late to count it or until after everyone has moved on.

Meanwhile, many of the traditional non-VBM, walkin voters who still have the time and or preference to come in and do it the old fashioned way were also handed provisional ballots when they were party preference voters.

Obstruct. Distort. Silence. Delay. Deflect. In that order, this is what they do to our votes. Voter suppression and election fraud.
As they say, it’s not the vote that counts, it’s who counts the votes.

As to Mr. Salinas’ mistruths in the KFBK quote:

A. “The flaps on Yolo VBM envelopes are a courtesy but not required by law.” Sure, then again Sacramento County envelopes do not have regular flaps that detach or dislodge *above* the sensitive voter information like they do on YoloCo ballots. While Sacramento County ballots lack the so-called “courtesy flap” Salinas says are present as a favor granted to voters on Yolo County ballots, Sacramento County ballots are more secure because their main flaps close and seal *over* sensitive voter data like name address and wet signature. That makes the example of Sacramento County ballots irrelevant to Yolo County VBM complaint resolution and irrelevant to the widespread harm done, to our grievances and to our immediate demands.

B. The Yolo County elections office has really no way of knowing how many defective envelopes we’re dealing with, or in their words, “as many as 3000 or 4000” ballots. Widespread voters have corroborated that their envelope was affected, including Sam Blanco III, Woodland City Council who affirmed that his was affected, too and added in writing “Quite sure this was a HUGE flaw in the system.” Several poll workers out in the precincts on Tuesday reported the same frequent irregularities witnessed when concerned VBM voters, in possession of defective and insecure return envelopes, walked their ballots in on June 7 to precincts with the defective envelopes. Others reported walking them in at county elections. In both widespread instances, VBM voters had to surrender their party preference ballots for provisional ones (which are placed on the back burner for counting, if counted at all). The other problems with that late-breaking (June 3 obscure and incomplete press release from Beth Gabor YoloCo Public Information Officer) and inadequately disseminated “just walk it in” remedy, of course, are that it is a total inconvenience, at best, and an impossibility at worst, for VBM voters to get to their polls on June 7 (ergo their self-selection as VBM registrants). Forcing people to walk in and surrender their defective VMB ballots defeats the point of absentee voting.

C. The remarks by Jesse Salinas that suggest Yolo County elections was saving county taxpayer dollars by using up defective envelopes (that they KNOWINGLY used in prior elections!) Several holes in that theory, but mainly it doesn’t hold up because it costs elections staff (and us the taxpayers) more money to print and hand out provisional ballots (again those ballots may not be counted after all is said and done anyway). Moreover, it creates an unexpected strain on the precinct polls, pollworkers and traditional voters when upwards of 60% of registered VBM county voter (58,000-60,000 VBM voters) are redirected to physical precincts and have the potential to generate impossibly long lines and strain election day processes at the polls with inadequate staffing and unexpected supply shortages.

D. Jesse Salinas, in an attempt to downplay the magnitude of this issue, used language with me on the telephone and with the reporter “this didn’t affect more than 3 or 4 thousand voters”. No big deal right? WRONG! Not only is this VBM-gate issue more widespread than 3 to 4 thousand voters, his response implies that whether the common denominator of affected voters was 3000, 4000, or 60,000, our singular voices as voters are but mere fractions; they don’t really count, when measured against a majority numerator. That suggestion that it is a minor hiccup that won’t affect outcomes or voter voices (one voice = one vote) doesn’t hold up factually or morally because, in Yolo County, where 60% of voters are VBM, the Yolo County elections office has been systematically, election after election, deliberately distorting the vote of the majority! Each and every vote counts! 60K, 50K, 4K, 3K or only ONE ballot counts! They ALL count! Why does an elections staff that has, according to more dismissive Salinas language, been “doing this for 30 years” not get that?

Some critical additional context:

This week, the LA County Registrar alone, released this statement: “First estimate of ballots remaining to be processed: ~240,063 provisional; 125,280 VMB returned at polls; 204,946 VBM recorded via mail.”

San Diego County’s website states, “there are approximately 285000 Mail / Provisional ballots still to be counted,” and San Bernardino County has 95,000 more outstanding.

In other words, there are 570,000 ballots to be counted in LA County, 285,000 in San Diego County, 95,000 in San Bernardino County (that’s a total of 950,000 in just three counties), and who knows how many more need to be counted in Yolo and California’s 54 other counties (58 total).

So, respect for the two reporters in our entire valley media (Vanguard and KFBK) who saw that this was important, and potentially a serious piece of evidence that –in triangulation with other widespread accounts of voting irregularities throughout our state, especially last week’s admission by Alex Padilla, Secretary of State that 2,500,000+ ballots remain uncounted and an election watchdog group reporting that from 5,000,000 to 7,000,000 more California mailin/absentee/VBM ballots are yet to be counted– give the appearance of a wider statewide pattern of voter suppression and election fraud than we ever realized.

David Greenwald and the Vanguard also had the conviction to at least publish my chronology of events, communications, and observations on June 8. I invite you to read the corroborating comments by VBM voters and a person claiming to be a poll worker his/herself)

We demand answers. We expect that every ballot –traditional, mailin, AND provisional– be certified and counted and entered into the report that goes forward for our county.
We want impartial monitors and observers on the ground, during this counting process.

We want to know how many VBM ballots didn’t make it back at all.

We want to know how many VBM ballots made it back having been taped or altered by concerned voters and we want to know the criteria for certifying or disqualifying irregular vote by mail materials.

We want to know how many VBM ballots were surrendered at precincts in exchange for provisional ballots

We want to know how many VBM voters reported not even getting their packets?

Upwards of 60% of Yolo County voters have been affected here!

We want statistics on historical voter turnout that go back to: 1) before the VBM elections were knowingly corrupted by defective envelopes; 2) before Freddie Oakley was registrar; 3) before she hired her son; 4) before her son took the helm during a critical vacancy; and 5) before the supervisors ultimately appointed someone who was so totally inexperienced in early May when it was too late to order proper VBM supplies and make this right and fair for us.


“My vote was not counted. MY VOTE WAS NOT COUNTED. I did mail-in, with confirmation of delivery, and my ballot has not been located. I am so truly angry and frustrated with the system and feel that I am not being heard.”
–Christina H, Davis, CA

“No wonder…I was wondering why the back flap of my voting envelope was torn and the instructions were not clear. I had to walk my envelope in and make sure it was sealed. Quite sure this was a HUGE flaw in the system.” – Sam Blanco III, City Council, Woodland, CA

“I turned in my mail-in ballot at the polling center on Election Day, and my vote has yet to be received. How much longer should I wait before my vote is processed?”
–Nicole C., UC Davis, CA

“This issue i can CONFIRM, was widespread, it even occurred to me, I taped and told ppl to sign across the tape. I cannot say that will help.”—Administrator, Davis Coalition for Bernie Sanders

“Is there anything we can do if our vote wasn’t counted?”—Sindoorha T., Davis CA

“My vote by mail never came. Went to the polls and filled out a provisional. It has still not been counted.”—Karen M., Graduate Student, UC Davis
“Our vote by mail ballots were affected.” –Pilar Y. & Felisa C.

“Mine was half torn and I thought my baby had done it! I was too suspicious bc I had it far from her the whole time. I went in as a walk in voter and they destroy my first ballot so I could vote there though.” – Lucia O., UC Davis

“Ours were affected.”, Cheryl L. & Adrian S., UC Davis


These are but a smattering of the corroborating remarks from affected VMB (absentee, vote by mail) voters of Yolo County. Still no response for my demands in the original memo outlining the problem; a problem which now has more serious components to it which go to deliberate disqualification of qualified ballots, and deliberate alteration of our VMB packets which would force a surrender for a provisional ballot, which remains uncounted.

Jesse Salinas, County Registrar, and the Board of Supervisors have been silent since I brought original written concerns to their attention. It will not go away. We are aware that VBM ballots are counted and certified on Mondays. That would be today. We demand a response.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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31 thoughts on “People Were Impacted by Voter Irregularities”

  1. SODA

    I think this issue is worth pursuing. As I said on the initial story, we brought our daughter’s VBM ballot to the polls when we voted after puzzling over the torn hinge flap and finally taping it.

    I voted early (but not often) and noticed what I thought was a breach of confidentiality. The first person checking my name yelled down to the last person handling the ballot box/ballots each voter’s party affiliation so they could be handed the appropriate ballot. All those in line and in the room could hear each voter’s party loud and clear. Maybe because I am in healthcare and confidentiality is coveted but this bothered me. It seemed they should have been more discrete or had more workers.

    1. Barack Palin

       The first person checking my name yelled down to the last person handling the ballot box/ballots each voter’s party affiliation 

      When I voted my party affiliation was loudly announced so the poll workers could get me the proper ballot.  Not really a big deal but I kind of wondered about that.

      A few years ago I had a poll worker ask me my party affiliation and when I responded Republican he stated “one of those huh”.  Now that I felt was way out of line.

    2. hpierce

      Uh… your registration is “public record”… poll workers, by law, have their names and party affiliation (if any) published in the newspaper… political campaigns can find your party affiliation out from public records, then use internet, other databases to get your address and phone number…

      Your complaint is, in my opinion, “petty”, except, perhaps, for the “yelling” part.  If there was yelling, that would be inappropriate.  Get over yourself.

  2. ryankelly

    A few years ago, their was a worker at the polls whose behaviour was unacceptable. I believe complaints were sent to Freddie and this person was not hired again, at least at that polling place.

    How do people know that their vote has not been received or counted?   I sent in my ballot and just taped the two pieces of the flap together. How do I check if it was received and counted?

  3. Barbara King

    My husband and I got one-time vote by mail ballots this year because we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it to the polls on election day this year.  As it worked out, we were able to get to the polls, and we  turned in our vote by mail ballots at our usual polling place on election day.

    After reading this piece, I tracked our ballots at http://www.yoloelections.org/voting/vote-by-mail-ballot-status and discovered that both our ballots are “not yet received.”  Does this mean our votes won’t be counted or does it mean that things are still in the works at the elections office?

  4. hpierce

    Will attempt to answer that, with a caveat…

    Anyone who expects their VBM or Provisional ballot to be “counted” the night of the election, or the next day are naive/ill-informed.  Each ballot must be ‘vetted’, with signatures and addresses verified.  By law, the County Clerk/Recorder has ~ 30 days to do so, perform a “canvass”, and report out a final tally… Yolo Count’s office generally  completes that by the 21 day mark.

    As part of the canvass, the County needs to account for every ballot issued in the polls, and all VBM and provisional ballots.  There is a “paper trail” that begins a bit after 8 PM when the precinct poll workers have to account for every ballot issued, every ballot surrendered or ‘spoiled’, every VBM turned in, etc.  [Provisional ballots are ‘issued’ by the precinct].  I know that in our precinct, we had the count EXACTLY right… four of us checked and verified each other.  We all signed off on the counts.

    Not as clear on the process used for VMB ballots actually mailed.

    That said, about 3-4 weeks after the election any VBM or provisional voter can call, with their name and address, to verify whether their ballot was received, and its disposition (counted, or rejected ‘for cause… some folk voted provisional ballots even though we recommended hey be heavily scrutinized because the voter TOLD us they did not live in the City, and/or the county.  Precinct poll workers don’t “make the call”.

    If I was a VBM voter [I am] concerned on whether their ballot made it, mailed or dropped off [I’m not], I’d wait to call until June 27th… give folk time to do their jobs… if I was a Provisional voter, I’d even add a week to that.  It might be sooner, but once the official canvass is complete (usually announced in the media), you should be able to get a ‘final answer’.

    Hope that helps… also hope someone in Yolo County Elections explain for themselves.

     

  5. South of Davis

    David: It would be great if you could ask for something to put in your “About The Author” section so we know if “This is the first time the author has written about an election” or “As a “return envelope activist the author has been writing about return envelope issues for 20 years”…

  6. skeptical

    These are just some of the consequences of the Board of Supervisors hiring an inexperienced and unqualified department head.  What’s worse is the apparently cavalier attitude that “this didn’t affect more than 3 or 4 thousand voters.”  Where is the response from this department head and from the Board of Superivors???

  7. hpierce

    OK… my draft comment appears to have gone into the ‘bit bucket’, so will attempt again…

    Jumping in, I know Donna pretty well… at a 99.835% confidence level, she doesn’t fall into either postulated categories…

    I believe she is upset (similar confidence level), with the lousy VBM return envelopes, which I saw first hand, widely reported, with clear evidence at the precinct I worked at.  We patched them up and submitted them, in the voters’ presence when they brought them to the polls.

    Another widely reported problem was the failure to get the VBM ballots at all.  We made sure that folk got to vote, and altho’ Provisional, we noted that they were listed as VBM, had none to surrender (some folk got them, but misplaced them… we warned those that if they found them they should not submit them, as that might result in a criminal charge), and as appropriate, noted that the voter told us that they never received them.  They all VOTED.  I strongly believe every damn one of them will be counted prior to the final canvass (noted elsewhere).

    Yeah, County Elections needs to work on those issues, but I hear/see a sense of ‘paranoia’ that I just can’t relate to.  Davis doesn’t really have many “grassy knolls”.

    Rest assured, Donna is the “real deal”, and not a spit-baller nor zealot activist, particularly on ballots.  She is upset, but also very articulate.

  8. Marina Kalugin

    I posted more about the rest of the vote counting on the yesterdays party site….as I was not sure why the party when more than 6K ballots are not counted yet for the Davis district.

    There are over 18K yolo wide.

    The registrar’s office now has 28 days from election day to complete the work and certify the results.

    She told me anyone is welcome to come see the process.

  9. Misanthrop

    I don’t know what the big deal is about the voter name  and address being exposed. I wrote my name and address on the front of the envelope in the return address space. Doesn’t everyone write a return address before putting it in the mail?I get that this envelope thing is an ongoing problem at Yolo Elections and should have been addressed by now so maybe  raising some stink might be in order. Blaming it on the new person who started only recently seems a little over the top since he was probably relying on existing staff on many issues.  I’m actually surprised that things seemed to go as smoothly as they did with a new person put in charge on short notice.

    So this has been going on for at least two previous election cycles.The first time this happened to me was on a ballot for Measure C parcel tax in 2012 for the Davis schools.  With the previous tax barely passing I hand delivered it to Freddy who was sitting outside the elections office having a cigarette with her dog when I arrived. No the dog wasn’t smoking just sitting there. I told her I wanted to make sure my vote got counted. She said not to worry that they knew about the problem. It seemed that nobody’s vote was going to go uncounted because of the flap snafu. Just like the dog that didn’t bark,  the question that wasn’t asked is “since this has been ongoing is how many ballots have been disqualified because of tampering or damage due to the flap issue in the past?” My guess is not many. Still they need to get this fixed so I’m glad someone is calling it out.

  10. Adam Smith

    My ballot had a torn flap, so I took it in to a precinct.   They taped it, and I put it in a ballot box.    On the elections website, it shows as not having been received.

  11. Marina Kalugin

    I care about my vote also…often I am on the squeaky wheel side…..I started getting absentee some years ago, because I travel a lot……usually I am here on the day and hand deliver to the polling place…  they count, verify, etc….posting to the website is last on their priority…but they answer the phone and truly take time discussing the process…

    they are not rushing they have 28 days….  LOL

    they are not in any hurry and they like to chat….this lady told me she has been at it since the 90s…

    I started to get a little testy as I said it used to be that results used to be posted more regularly and she was ho hum about it…

    the MRIC guys are trying to get their project through quickly now as they think there is a window…on the A… Dan is moving really fast…

    his 3 sons were friends with my 2…..he may have another child now…….don’t know.

    RAMCO is very smart…and they are going to use this window to ram through the latest project…

    no offense, Dan…love you guys,     but…..

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. hpierce

      They don’t “rush” (that can lead to errors) but they usually complete the canvass within 21 days… [past performance is no guarantee of future results]

  12. Marina Kalugin

    my children are just as into voting as I always was…they come back to Davis to vote in their hometown…their primary residence….still …this is what they care about…and they tend to follow my lead on the issues…..we don’t agree 100%, but whoever does….they saw me fight against the Ricci development…and now they were also no on NISHI>..they knew the true story about the Nishi historical farmhouse and the Woodbridge…and they went on walks with me when I was appalled at the sidewalks….

    1. tiger

      When I checked on my ballot, the page you referenced informed me:

      If the received date is before June 7th, your ballot was counted on election day.If the ballot was received on or after election day, it will be counted as part of the final canvas of ballots.

      I think I’ll keep the pitchfork in the garden shed until the counting is finished. Based on what I’ve read elsewhere, there’s lots of counting remaining and lots of time allotted for it.

  13. skeptical

    Pitchforks???  What is the purpose for mocking legitimate concerns over the voting process?  What is wrong with you people?

    FACT, the county hired an inexperienced and unqualified department head.  Said department head has offered no public explanations or assurances regarding:  the known issues with the vote by mail envelopes, the longest election returns in memory, an update on the status of uncounted ballots, the failure to publish on the ballot the name of a Senate candidate, etc.  We have the worst of both worlds, rookie performance and rookie leadership.  What does this say about the hiring acumen of the Board of Supervisors???

     

  14. Barack Palin

    Okay, it’s almost two weeks since the election, where’s the results?  I think I could’ve counted the mail-in-ballots myself by this time and they have a whole staff.

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