By Donna E. Davies
It has come to the attention of several Yolo County registered voters that as many as 55,000-62,000 (roughly 60% of total county electorate) of June 7 ballots have been compromised and placed at risk for tampering, disqualification or disappearance.
This notification concerns registered mail-in voters.
60% of registered voters in Yolo County conduct their voting via mail-in ballots.
The core of the problem: Throughout this elections season, registered mail-in voters throughout Yolo County were sent ballots with flawed and insecure ballot-return envelopes from the Yolo County elections division.
The rear flaps on the return envelopes, which accompany the ballots have half- to fully-torn rear flaps used for encasing, closing and sealing the ballots.
Yolo County Elections staff were knowledgeable of the flawed voting materials months ago (and as long ago as the last few elections when the problem was detected yet ignored by officials).They failed to obtain a new inventory of secure and proper mail-in voting materials, and sent out the faulty ballot-return envelopes for this elections cycle.
The ability to safely, securely, and reliably submit ballots for U.S. postal transit back to the Yolo Elections Office has been compromised — again.
Moreover, the Yolo Elections Office’s prior knowledge of and willful ignorance of this risk to a fair, secure and uneventful mail-in voting process has compromised our security, and exposed our identities, wet signatures and residential addresses to fraud and open observation of our voting habits.
This widespread error and flaw in the Yolo Elections Office mail-in voter return-envelopes has placed mail-in voters and their ballots at risk:
- Thousands of ballots will not make their way back to be counted. The rear flap on these envelopes does not close or seal securely due to the flaw. Specifically, envelopes with fully torn back flaps are hanging wide open when placed into U.S. mail; the envelopes with half-torn back flaps are subject to being torn open completely in rugged conveyor belt machines, and the physical handling, sorting, and stacking procedures which are a part of U.S. postal mail transit. This places thousands of ballots at risk for falling out of their flawed return envelopes.
2) Thousands of ballots are no longer secret like walk-in voter ballots.
Missing or fully- and half-open flaps leave our ballots subject to viewing by handlers throughout the mail-in process. There is surely at least a section or two in State and Federal code that guarantees the anonymity and secrecy of citizen voting preferences as Americans and citizens of California.
- Thousands of ballots are subject to tampering due to being transmitted in flawed and insecure envelopes. For all the reasons outlined in number 1 and 2.
- Thousands of ballot envelopes have left us at risk for identity theft, wet signature lifting and forgery, and check and document fraud. The rear envelope flaps are situated on the return ballot envelopes to conceal voter names, addresses and wet signatures. In the complete absence or half-coverage of the flap, due to the material flaws described above, all of that sensitive information is fully exposed in transit and handling.
- The information left exposed in risk #4 can also be easily matched against voting preferences since ballots are accessible in the flawed envelopes.
Upon noticing the flaw on the mail-in ballot return envelope, I contacted the Yolo Elections Office via phone on Thursday, June 2 with these concerns.
Yolo Elections Office staff acknowledged their usage of flawed envelopes, admitted to knowingly sending out flawed envelopes and stated that they were a leftover flawed supply from prior elections with the same internally well-known issues. As early as May 9, the office proceeded to mail out packets to thousands of registered mail-in voters, which were stuffed with flawed and insecure return envelopes. They did this without notifying voters to anticipate the flawed torn envelopes, much less providing information how to remedy the situation and secure their mail-in ballots or, better yet, how to vote by way of a more secure method.
I used the analogy that if I were Bayer pharmaceutical and I found out a few people were getting sick on my aspirin (a while ago), but I could not be sure how many and where they were and which batches were faulty, I would be morally bound to: immediately notify all potentially affected persons, provide an immediate remedy, recall the bad or potentially bad product and issue new ones, and in plenty of time to heal the ailment.
It was not until, on June 2, when – in that conversation – I demanded an immediate press release, that the Yolo Elections Office acknowledged the seriousness and wide-sweeping ramifications of this matter and generated a token announcement (presumably to your news and media outlet?) dispatched on June 3 by way of a public information officer, and not the elections officers themselves. They also placed a minor dispatch on the yolocountyelections website which is not the same as outreach and notification to the voters throughout Yolo County. One would have to know to look there for remedy information in order to come upon it. I can see only one instance, at the back of the Woodland Press Democrat, where information for thousands of affected mail-in voters, appeared as a blurb from the press release embedded in passing at the bottom of an article entitled with an unrelated headline.
It is not lost on anyone that the previous Voter Registrar of Yolo County, Freddie Oakley, left the Yolo Elections Office to work for the Hillary Clinton campaign. This left her successor, Jesse Salinas, an interim figurehead. He was appointed only 5 weeks ago, on the cusp of an historic election on the heels of an unacceptably long vacancy in that critical county seat left by Oakley’s departure. That Salinas confessed to knowing zero to little about managing elections, much less large elections, is not lost on Yolo County voters, either.
The perceptions of a fair, reliable and secure democratic voting process held by thousands of Yolo County residents, millions of Californians, and now millions of citizens throughout the United States and the world at large, are rapidly deteriorating.
I anticipate earnest and unbiased media coverage of this matter. I ask that visible and widespread notification of this matter and the remedies necessary to reduce our risk of harm and have every voter’s voice count (in THIS election) be disseminated to registered Yolo County voters by way of all possible information sources.
High ranking officials including Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State were notified this afternoon.
I welcome, and expect, inquiries from the press as more details regarding these transgressions of fair and secure voting processes unfold.
On behalf of all registered mail-in voters of Yolo County, I demand a complete accounting of how many mail-in ballots made it back to the elections office with comparative mail-in return data for prior elections, including those occurring before Yolo County started sending out defective mail-in ballot return envelopes. After Monday, when all mail-in ballots are qualified, counted and reported by our elections office: I want a count and a ratio of how many mail-in ballots came back in defective envelopes that were either hanging open, or sealed but exposing our personal data, and/or had to be taped down due to the missing or defective security flap. Images of the flawed envelopes in question are available upon request.
At this point, I wish an independent watch group could provide oversight, observation and monitoring of all of these demands.