California Republicans were trying to contain their own fire a day before the end of the vote in the recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, persuading their constituents to run on Tuesday even as party leaders promoted unsubstantiated claims that the race was rigged or compromised by misconduct.
Larry Elder, one of the main Republican candidates seeking to replace Newsom if the recall is successful, said he believed “there could very well be shenanigans, as there was in the 2020 election.” Its campaign website contains a link to a “Stop CA Fraud” website where people can report suspicious election activity or sign a petition demanding a special legislative session to investigate an election that is not even over.
On Monday, former President Donald Trump, who continued to promote lies about his defeat in the 2020 election, released a statement saying: “Does anyone really believe that the recall election in California is not rigged? “
This post poses problems for Republican Party officials, who are encouraging everyone to vote while promoting a narrative that California election security cannot be trusted. Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer and member of the California Republican National Committee, said she made a video with her husband showing how they vote by mail and urging everyone to do the same.
But Dhillon also said she couldn’t say whether the California election would be safe and secure, detailing many of the issues she said she and a team of election-monitoring lawyers witnessed.
“There will be a lot of questions and potentially litigation after this election over this shoddy treatment to the best of people’s ballots and their right to vote,” Dhillon said. “I think people need to come out and vote. We have to document the issues, and we have to advocate for those issues. “
Much of the GOP’s criticism of the California election has focused on the widespread use of mail-in ballots, which have been automatically sent to all registered voters active for state elections since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. . An overwhelming majority of California voters voted by mail even before the pandemic, and widespread voter fraud issues have not surfaced.
As of Saturday 7.8 million ballots were cast, nearly 35% of registered voters, according to Political Data Inc., a data company that works with Democrats. Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office, said postal voting was “reliable, secure and safe.”
“Many protocols are in place to ensure the security and verification of all votes returned by mail,” Sanchez said. “The allegations made ignore and distort these guarantees. As a result, their messages could be confusing to voters and discourage participation. ”
The GOP’s predicament is similar to that of last year’s presidential election, when many party members feared that Trump’s claims of widespread fraud resulting from an expansion of mail-in voting during the pandemic might grow. turn against it. They feared his message would convince many Republicans to stay home.
In California, the GOP needs all the help it can get.
The party has only 24% of registered voters, against 46.5% for Democrats. Those registered to vote without a political party are roughly equal to registered Republicans, but generally align their votes with Democrats. Republicans have not won a statewide post since 2006, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was re-elected as governor.
Dhillon pointed to an issue in Los Angeles over the weekend as evidence fueling voter mistrust. In the Woodland Hills neighborhood, some people who showed up to vote were told they had already voted.
“Whether or not there is an innocent explanation for this, the rumors have spread like wildfires based on the facts. These facts are that there are errors in the vote in Los Angeles County. People see this online and decide it’s not worth voting for, ”Dhillon said.
The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office said the error was due to some settings in the computers used to register voters before issuing ballots. The office said those affected have been allowed to vote on an interim basis, which act as placeholders until voter eligibility is determined.
Republican Party officials say they are working to have poll observers in every county to monitor polling places and the county registrar’s offices, where clerks will check and count the ballots. The state’s GOP is also urging voters to report any suspicious voting activity to the party.
Not all Republicans accept the demands. John Cox, a businessman running to replace Newsom, said voter fraud issues were “another distraction.”
“Frankly, all of this talk about invalid elections is a dead end because some people will decide not to vote,” Cox said as he campaigned outside Capitol Hill on Monday.
Regardless of Republican claims, a group of election security and computer experts have voiced concerns about the California electoral system. Their warning is not based on allegations of widespread fraud, but on the public release of copies of an election management system similar to the one that conducts elections in 40 of California’s 58 counties.
The copies were released last month at an event hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a Trump ally who made unsubstantiated claims about last year’s election.
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said concerns about election security were “inaccurate.”
All votes, whether in person, by mail or in a drop box, will be cast on paper ballots which can be hand-counted afterwards if there are any questions about the count in a county. .
Part of the challenge for election officials is the process of counting and reporting the votes, which can lead to changes in results that appear to oscillate before the final tally is released.
In a state like California, where election officials can begin processing mail-in ballots before election day, the first batch of results often comes from mail-in ballots. These should slightly favor the Democrats. Next are the results of in-person polling stations on Election Day, when higher percentages of Republicans typically vote. Finally, postal ballots arriving late are counted and marked.
Ballots will be counted up to seven days after the election, provided they are stamped no later than Tuesday.
Local election officials are seeing increased activity from a group of Republican-aligned election observers, said Donna Johnston, Sutter County Registrar of Electors and president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.
Johnson said election officials welcome observers and have an opportunity to explain procedures that ensure the security and integrity of the election. The increase in mistrust, however, is “heartbreaking for us,” she said.
“Election officials take it personally when someone is just making unfounded accusations about what we are doing,” said Johnston.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
See full AP coverage of the California recall elections: https://apnews.com/hub/california-recall
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