With false allegations of voter fraud after the California recall election, we checked with Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who oversees the state elections. The interview has been slightly edited and condensed.
We have seen over eight million returned ballots so far, which is a very large number of incoming ballots. So that in itself is rather exciting, as well as the ballots still being cast in the ballot box this morning.
People have called all of our hotlines to ask where their polling stations are or to get additional information. It is clear that people are interested in voting today.
Why did people call the hotlines?
Sometimes people have familiar polling stations that they always went to and now they have changed. We got a few calls saying, “Where is he now? “
We’ve had people who couldn’t find their ballots – misplaced them after they arrived in the mail. And we’ve had people who left the state for a while and wonder how can they still vote, that sort of thing.
But we didn’t have long lines, no people waiting. We have zero wait time at this time.
Other snags today?
We have seen little things. A polling station 10 minutes late, that sort of thing.
Because of the fires, we have had people move out of their homes. So we have to fix this problem. We had a riding where the telephones did not serve. We just adapted and adjusted to every little novelty that presented itself. But we didn’t have anything that was a major shutdown.
For those who are having difficulty with forest fires, what else have you done?
We made sure that everyone in the fire zones received their mail-in ballot.
We made sure that those who had to leave or lost their homes, that they had access to the vote in various other ways, in terms of being able to travel to another county to vote, making sure that they had their mail-in ballot, making sure they knew where the ballot boxes were in other counties or regions. We therefore raised awareness among all those who could have been affected by a fire or any kind of tragedy.
We have also implemented remote mobile voting for our firefighters to ensure those far from home have access to voting.
How do you prepare your office for the claims and possible electoral fraud litigation Republicans say they can bring?
I think the whole discussion of fraud across the country kind of gives us a glimpse of what people are going to do. They can bring various lawsuits. We know they tried to collect information – they set up a website saying, “If you find any irregularities, show us your irregularities. And, you know, people go to court, and so far across the country, they’ve lost because there isn’t widespread fraud in the electoral process. But whether or not they decide to go to court, we’ll be there to defend the process.
We know they’ll always be talking about whether it was a stolen election or a fraud – or there’s a new term, “shenanigans.” We have no evidence of this, and when we had allegations of any type, especially if there is specific information, we investigated. And as most people across the country have found, there aren’t any there.
So we’re not totally panicking. We just make sure everything we do is according to the book. That we took our time to make sure there is transparency. And so far we haven’t found anything ourselves.
Are there any additional transparency measures you’ve taken in this hyperpartisan age when the process itself is challenged?
We are doing what we have always done. This is a one-time election as a reminder. But keep in mind that we had four or five elections this year, special elections, as well as last November.
Whenever we discover something that might be a concern, we do our best to make sure we solidify it. If we find out that someone is complaining that the signs are too small, that they couldn’t really see a sign in a voting booth, we try to make sure that next time we do more. If people feel disenfranchised because of the language, if there are enough people in that community, we make sure to increase the number of languages and make sure those languages are clear.
And so it’s not like we’re getting ready because Mr. Elder says something or someone else says something. We are aware that the issue of fraud or issues of transparency are constant. And, as I walk into the offices of different registrars, I see them answering different questions, such as making sure there is a space where people can watch the ballots open.
When I was in a domain, they basically created lanes for people to do. So that’s the kind of thing we respond to all the time to make sure that those who want to create transparency and fairness issues have the opportunity to do so.