A bombshell report released by the non-partisan Transparency Foundation gives California a failing grade on election integrity and declares “from its failure to maintain accurate voter registration lists to its refusal to verify the identity and eligibility of voters, California by far has the worst election practices in the nation.”
Investigators who compiled the report not only interviewed state and county election officials but also conducted an independent audit over 18 months of California’s election practices, voter registration lists, ballot signature reviews, and discarded ballots.
“The findings of this election integrity audit are quite damning and they completely refute the false narrative being spun by California politicians and media outlets that the state has no problems with how it conducts elections,” said Carl DeMaio with the Transparency Foundation.
“The problems are so bad and the evidence presented is so alarming that we believe there’s a clear case that California is repeatedly violating existing election laws and immediate reforms need to be implemented before the 2024 election.”
Audit detects voter fraud
The Transparency Foundation’s audit was able to pinpoint substantial evidence of voter fraud occurring in California. The audit examined mail-in ballots that were rejected by county election officials because of mismatched signatures and remained “uncured” at the end of the election.
The audit found 56 percent of ballot signatures rejected as mismatched remained “uncured” or unclaimed by voters that supposedly cast them — despite repeated attempts by county officials to get these voters to confirm their identity and their attempt to vote in the election.
Even worse, of the 388 individuals with rejected and uncured ballots that were located by investigators and submitted to interviews, the audit uncovered a 14.17 percent likely fraud rate where the voter denied ever attempting to vote — and some individuals claimed to not even live in California.
Audit reveals inadequate signature verification
The audit revealed a massive disparity in signature rejection rates across California counties — with flawed signature review regulations imposed by the California Secretary of State to blame.
For example, in both the 2022 Primary and General Elections, Sacramento County rejected a significantly lower percentage of signatures (.24 percent in the Primary and .23 percent in the General) than San Joaquin County (2.18 percent in the Primary and 2.10 percent in the General.)
Sacramento County was also wildly outside the statewide average of rejected signatures of .70 percent in the Primary and 1.01 percent in the General. Put another way, Sacramento County’s ballot rejection rate was 438 percent below the statewide average.
Not only do these disparities raise the concern that some counties are not doing an adequate job of signature reviews, but the extreme nature of the disparities offer the basis to challenge California’s ballot signature review regulations on due process and equal protection grounds.
Inaccurate voter lists
Investigators said both the interviews with county election officials and the audit showed that California has failed to maintain even a reasonably accurate voter registration list.
The report cites policies imposed by California politicians that make it operationally impossible to maintain accurate voter registration lists.
The investigation identified more than 6.6 million people since 2010 that moved out of California to another state. Unfortunately, the report notes the VoteCal data system fails to provide county election officials with the data they need to remove someone from the voter rolls when they move out-of-state.
The result? There are millions of inactive voters still on California’s voter rolls — many who are still receiving mail ballots at their old address. Los Angeles County admitted to having more than 1 million inactive voters — and the Transparency Foundation’s statewide audit reflects at least 1.18 million inactive voters still on the state’s voter rolls.
The audit also found evidence of 81,421 potential duplicate or triplicate voter registrations for the same individuals in the state voter registration list.
Reinforcing the audit findings, a 2020 survey by Reform California showed nearly one-in-10 California households have received “erroneous” ballots for someone who does not live there, for a dead person, or a duplicate/triplicate ballot for the same person.
Election interference and voter suppression concerns
Investigators documented numerous instances at the state and local levels where politicians intentionally misled voters by placing false and biased titles on ballot measures. The report also cites millions in taxpayer funds that have been inappropriately used to manipulate election outcomes by boosting turnout in specific voting blocks, to promote ballot measures and to fund lobbyist groups to manipulate the drawing of redistricting maps to benefit the ruling political party and incumbent politicians.
Investigators also raise concerns regarding voter suppression, citing a recent move by California politicians to deliberately eliminate polling locations on Election Day. In 2022 one county saw a reduction of 87 percent in its polling locations on Election Day.
Investigators said a case could be made that this move could be successfully challenged in court on voter suppression grounds — pointing to polling that shows that conservative voters prefer to vote on election day while liberal voters prefer to vote by mail.
California voters lack confidence in the state’s voting system
The report cites polls showing California voters do not have trust and confidence in the state’s elections and want immediate improvements in election integrity. The Berkeley IGS poll in November 2022 shows 60 percent of all California voters surveyed said that people voting or casting ballots illegally was a threat, with 39 percent of them saying it was a major threat.
Failing score on nine-of-10 criteria
The Transparency Foundation gives California failing grades on all but one of the election integrity criteria applied during the audit.
- Public Trust and Confidence: FAIL.
- Accurate Maintenance of Voter Lists: FAIL.
- Verifying Identity of Voters: FAIL.
- Confirmation of Eligibility/Citizenship: FAIL.
- Accessibility of Voting: FAIL.
- Security of Election Systems: FAIL.
- Interference in Elections: FAIL.
- Unbiased and Accurate Ballot Titles: FAIL.
- Individual Ballot Tracking and Curing: PASS.
- Post-Election Auditing: FAIL.
“Election integrity should not be a partisan issue, but a collective commitment to ensuring that all voters have trust and confidence in the process and the outcome — and that’s clearly not happening in California,” concludes DeMaio.
“We hope that this report and the findings of this audit serve as a call to action to finally force politicians and their friends in the media to be honest about California’s election deficiencies and commit to reforming these practices before 2024,” DeMaio concludes.
About The Transparency Foundation
The Transparency Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to making public institutions more transparent and accountable to the people they serve. The Foundation sponsors investigatory research projects on a range of issues related to public finance and government performance, including how government manages its finances, whether government funds are being used for intended and legitimate purposes, what tangible outcomes are produced from government programs, what is the true cost of a program, how does a program compare to benchmarks, and how government can improve its overall transparency, accountability and performance. The findings from our investigatory research projects are be released to the public and any potential violations of the law are referred to the appropriate government agency of jurisdiction.