July 2, 2013 — In recent days the reaction to a My Turn column I wrote a couple of weeks ago regarding Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamante and her critics revealed and uncovered a sore that apparently has been festering among some residents during the eight months or so since the November election. Lassen County resident De Loris Riddle, whom readers will remember was involved in the negotiations between the county and the Honey Lake Valley Grange, now has many questions about the conduct of that election that deserve to be answered.
I began a series of email exchanges with Riddle after that column published. While Riddle acknowledged I had the right to my opinion (even though she thought I was biased), she also wrote there were legitimate complaints of which I was unaware.
As a journalist and the managing editor of the newspaper, obviously I wanted to know more. Be careful what you ask for.
Riddle’s concern began with the Master Seal Log Certification form on which a poll worker reported a security seal on the optical scanner in the Westwood polling place “just came off.” Bustamante said the wire security seal on the machine was never broken and a plastic tag with the seal’s number had broken off. The clerk said the machine’s security was never compromised.
Riddle sent an email to the California Secretary of State’s Office asking for an investigation into the issue. She also expressed her concern that Bustamante’s daughter served as a poll worker in Westwood (the county clerk reports her daughter has served in that capacity for the past 12 years).
According to Riddle, Bustamante should have reported the seal issue to the local district attorney or the Secretary of State’s Office.
“Does this meet the threshold for SOS to open an investigation or should I report it to the United States Justice Department since it involved federal election candidates? I know Lassen County is a small county, but I feel it’s important that our voting rights are not infringed upon and are protected. I am asking that SOS investigate the issue with the memory card security seal falling off.”
The Secretary of State’s Office responded it had discussed the issue with Bustamante and determined “because the integrity of the seal had come into question, her canvassing board conducted a 100 percent manual tally on the ballots that were scanned by the machine on which this occurred … Based on the information provided, Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment determined that the proper steps were followed and no further investigation is warranted.”
Riddle disagrees, and she feels the matter has not been properly investigated. And in the days since then she’s asked even more questions and raised even more concerns.
Riddle’s ever-expanding litany of questions and concerns regarding this election are both legal and technical in nature and far beyond my ability to adequately address.
I have to wonder why these issues never came to light publicly during a contentious and incredibly close election about eight months ago, but the Secretary of State’s Office is the agency responsible for the oversight of elections in the state of California. As such they have the knowledge and expertise to answer all of Riddle’s questions and concerns.
They should respond to her questions and concerns regarding the integrity of this Lassen County election, and I call on them to do so as soon as possible.
And further, while the Secretary of State’s Office says the matters it investigates are “confidential,” the public needs to know its findings so we all can have faith in the electoral process so vital to our democracy.
I trust they’ll get right to work on this matter.
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