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Life Arts    H2'ed 6/30/14

BRAD BLOG Exposes CA Law Restricting "Recounts" To the Wealthy

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My guest today is Brad Friedman of Brad Blog. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Brad.

Always great to chat with you, Joan.

The current law in the State of California regarding "recounts" is far from perfect. Voters requesting a "recount" can be forced to pay huge sums for the privilege.

They can, but it's not so much the "huge sums", as it is that County Registrars can set any charge they like, and they can do it after the recount is requested. That has allowed Registrars and County Clerks to arbitrarily and capriciously charge voters trying to oversee their own elections huge amounts in one county, while the one next door charges a reasonable amount. (Eg. San Diego tried to charge a voter about $1.00/ballot for an attempted "recount" a few years back, while neighboring Orange County was charging about .15/ballot.) That has left the perception that some Registrars are purposely trying to stop recounts, as we saw, for example, in Fresno County during the attempted "recount" of Prop 37, a statewide GMO labeling initiative that the computer tabulators reported to have been rejected by voters.

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Even so, I understand that law is far more liberal than in many other states.

True. It allows any voter to request a post-election hand-count in any election, in any county and in any precincts they like, so long as they are willing to pay for it -- though they receive the money back if the count reverses the result of the election.

Recently, however there was a move to curtail "recounts" even more. You're from California, Brad. Tell us about the legislation that was recently proposed to replace what's currently in place.

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It was pretty amazing actually. A Republican state legislator filed a bill that would require such recounts be paid for "from the voter's own personal funds". That would mean that only wealthy individuals could even afford to ask for such counts, since even the appropriately priced counts can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would have disallowed voters pooling their funds, or fundraising to pay for "recounts" when a group of citizens wanted to oversee their own elections to make sure that the frequently inaccurate electronic tabulators tallied the results correctly.

Even more amazing, the Democrats in the state Assembly went along with it! It passed out of that chamber 66 to 7, before moving on to the state Senate.

What am I missing here, Brad? Why would anyone think that was a good idea?

That's exactly what I was trying to figure out when I saw this bill moving through the Assembly. It was authored by Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman. When I spoke with his office, they told me it was needed for the sake of "transparency". They argued that people have a right to know who is funding a count. That struck me as odd, because a count is a count, no matter who pays for it. Ballots are all counted publicly by county officials in such a "recount", so it doesn't really seem to me that it matters who pays for it. But making it harder for citizen oversight -- particularly so that only rich people can afford "recounts" -- seemed insane to me, and the folks in the Election Integrity community seemed to agree.

After I wrote my expose on this bill, which nobody else had covered, the California EI folks jumped in and started writing letters to the state Senate to object to the bill.

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First of all, thanks so much for writing that expose. You started a bandwagon. I guess I'm not surprised by the Republicans' sponsorship of the bill. That actually makes sense from their corporatist agenda point of view. But why were Democrats flocking to the bill as well? I hope they aren't really as clueless as they appear.

Well, if it smells like a Dem and votes like a Dem... :-) In truth, state Democrats in Sacramento have been on a bit of tear lately, passing good bills in response to Citizens United and other "dark money" issues. So, I suspect they saw Hagman's calls for "transparency" and figured, "Yeah, we like transparency!" But I can't imagine they thought it through. The Dems have been, uh, less than great in the CA state legislature when it comes to issues of voting and elections (other than the work on "dark money" disclosure stuff.)

That's dispiriting. Something as important as that - you'd think that they'd at least read the bills and figure out what they're all about.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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