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'Voters Deserve To Know The Truth' About Mail-In Ballots, California Secretary Of State Says05:49
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Voter Becky Visconti completes her mail-in ballot at a Ballot Party at a private residence in Laguna Niguel, California, on Oct. 24, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Voter Becky Visconti completes her mail-in ballot at a Ballot Party at a private residence in Laguna Niguel, California, on Oct. 24, 2018. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

For the first time in California’s history, the state is sending out mail-in ballots to every registered voter.

This week, the nation’s most populous state mailed out more than 20 million ballots, marking a massive expansion in ballot access amid the coronavirus pandemic. Mail-in voting has its critics, including President Trump, who told Fox News back in August that "people that have been dead for 25 years” are getting ballots.

Some ballots have also been sent out in error. About 2,100 voters in the Los Angeles area received ballots with no option to vote for the president, and the LA County Registrar's office says they are investigating what they call a printing error.

Despite concerns over the efficacy of mail-in voting, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says voters can track their ballots — and even deliver them in person if they don’t want to rely on the U.S. Postal Service.

“Look, voters deserve to know the truth — the truth in terms of how they can register and how they can vote, and truth when it comes to the integrity of the elections and vote by mail, especially,” he says.

Interview Highlights 

On voting by mail in California

“Well, on the one hand, it is a big volume and a lot of logistics [are] involved, but [voting] by mail is nothing new in the state of California. In fact, in our March primary, more than 70% of ballots cast — and it was a record turnout — were vote-by-mail ballots. So we did make the decision to go ahead and expand that to every active registered voter in California given the COVID-19 pandemic. We're not starting from scratch here, but nonetheless, it is a lift for each county. We've been working for months to make sure they have the equipment they need, the staffing they need, the training they need to offer. This is the first choice for voters to cast their ballot and protect their health while also managing as many safe in-person opportunities to vote as possible.”

On his response to President Trump and others who believe that mailing out tens of millions of ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud 

“The fact of the matter is, voter fraud is exceedingly rare. Let me just share a couple of the safeguards that are in place that protect the integrity of vote by mail. Number one, you may not even think about it, but the ballot itself — it's not just any old piece of paper. Each county selects specific paper types with watermarks and other distinguishing features to prevent against the counterfeit ballots being introduced into the system. We know that's one of the conspiracy theories that's floating out there, but we have measures to protect against that.

“[There’s also] the required signature. The first thing county officials do when those ballots come in is compare the signature on the envelope with the signature on file for that person's voter registration record to confirm the identity of the voter, so a lot more to it than just that. We stand by the integrity of vote by mail and frankly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's arguably the safest way for you to exercise your right to vote and protect your health.”

On the ballots sent out in error in the Los Angeles area

“I'll be honest, whether it's misinformation coming from the Oval Office or printing errors by Los Angeles County — does it add to the frustration and workload? Of course. The good thing is, there's measures in place to mitigate the impact of errors like that. To their credit, Los Angeles County immediately took responsibility for the error and notified the impacted voters in that one precinct, canceled the ballots that had been issued, immediately reprinted, reissued correct ballots and sent them out [in] first-class mail. Again, not ideal. Not smooth, but [there are] measures in place to mitigate against some unforeseen errors, like we saw a couple of days ago.”

On what he would say to more than 40% of likely California voters who don't believe that ballots can be delivered safely and on time by the U.S. Postal Service 

“So, that 41% figure — it is concerning. Unfortunately, [it's] not surprising, given the relentless attacks on the integrity of elections and vote by mail, specifically coming from the national political environment, and I will leave it at that. In terms of how voters can rest assured, a couple of items. One, we have a ballot tracking tool available in California to all voters. Voters can go to vote.ca.gov, click on 'Where's My Ballot?' and subscribe to receive automated messages by email, by text or phone call on the status of their ballot through the delivery process.

"The other thing is, voters have multiple options for how to return their ballot. I still think the Postal Service is a reliable way, but if voters prefer in California, they can deliver their ballot to any ballot drop box in their county convenient to them between now and Election Day, and there's a lot of them in each county, or they can choose to ... drop it off at any in-person voting location, either on Election Day or during the in-person early voting period. So I think USPS is still going to be a reliable way to do it, but if you're a little hesitant, you have other options.”


Chris Bentley produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O'Dowd. Elie Levine adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on October 8, 2020.

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