As children we learn and grow attached to the idea that things should be fair. As we grow older we often realize that they sometimes aren’t.
But there are some things so important, so vital to the fabric of our society that we have to ensure they remain fair and balanced.
Voting is among the most valued and important of these. There are few greater opportunities for us to have our voices heard as individuals than on Election Day.
For this reason it is absolutely critical that we ensure the integrity of our voting system and, with it, the fairness and integrity of our democracy.
Many of us heard warnings this year about “rigged” elections and voter fraud. From dead folks registering to alleged Russian hacking, there were more than a few suggestions that our process may be faltering.
Now, I don’t want to sound hyperbolic and I believe wholeheartedly that our system works, but there are opportunities for, and instances of, fraud and abuse – and these must be rooted out.
Over the years, as we’ve attempted to raise voter turnout and make voting accessible to all, we have also made the process easier to manipulate for those who choose to do so.
A recent report by KCBS’s David Goldstein revealed at least 1,100 dead people are currently registered to vote in Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.
Each county is individually responsible for purging these non-eligible voters from their rolls but, in many cases, they are slow to do so and do no independent cross-checking to ensure their voters are alive and well before they vote.
What often happens is that these voters are registered to vote by mail and, when they pass away, their ballot continues to be mailed to their addresses.
Of course, many responsible citizens go through proper channels to correct the mistake but some people, in an overzealous attempt to influence an election, don’t. Instead, they commit voter fraud by completing and mailing in the ballot.
In another case, a couple from Southern California collected information on dozens of people and registered them to vote. They signed up their unknowing victims as permanent vote-by-mail voters and had the ballots sent to the couple’s house.
The couple was ultimately caught and penalized. However, this is often not the case and many instances of voter fraud go unnoticed and, worse, ignored by county elections officials as well as the California Secretary of State, who is in charge of investigating fraud on the state level.
As California moves ever closer to an absentee-only voting system, the potential for fraud has increased. Back in 2011, then-state Sen. George Runner introduced SB 802 in an attempt to remedy the issue but ran against a Democratic brick wall in the Legislature.
The bill would have taken measures to ensure vote-by-mail ballots were being filled out only by the intended recipient. Unfortunately, the bill, like many before and after, failed when the majority party chose to kill it in service of their own interests rather than the interest of fairness and democracy.
Many legislative proposals to strengthen electoral integrity have failed. And, even more unfortunate, the few laws in place currently are rarely enforced by county and state officials.
Voter fraud is a real issue. How widespread is unclear, but if even a single vote is cast that should not rightfully be, then we have a major problem that needs to be fixed.
I think everyone would agree that at least one ballot this year was wrongfully counted. And yet the elected officials responsible for ensuring the integrity of the system don’t agree that a solution is needed.
This is why I am calling on all Californians to join me in urging all California elections officials to investigate each and every case of reported or suspected fraud, no matter how small.
As Americans our electoral process is among our most prized possessions. It is a big part of what sets us apart from other nations that struggle under the tyranny of authoritarian rule.
Free and fair elections are the hallmark of a democracy, and we need to model an integral system for emerging democracies that can be emulated across the globe.
Life may not always be fair, but the election process should be.
Assemblyman Scott Wilk represents the 38th Assembly District encompassing Simi Valley, the northwestern section of the San Fernando Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley.