Study: Thousands of ballots mailed to deceased or relocated voters, including in CA-25

A woman casts her ballot in a voting voting booth at the Castaic Regional Sports Complex in Castaic on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Thousands of ballots for the November election were mailed to addresses within the 25th Congressional District of voters who may have relocated or died, making up a portion of about 440,000 “questionable” ballots, according to a new study. 

A report by the Election Integrity Project California, which dubs itself as a nonpartisan watchdog organization, showed that 420,000 ballots were mailed to people who have likely moved or died and about 20,000 registered voters received two to four ballots each. 

Among those hundreds of thousands are 9,211 ballots mailed to the 25th District, which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys. Of that total, more than 8,800 were of people who have likely moved or died and more than 300 duplicated ballots. 

The study also found a total of 9,492 “questionable” ballots in the 21st Senate District and 7,717 in the 38th Assembly District, as well as 277,606 across L.A. County. 

Besides costs, the concern is that people’s confidence in their vote and the system is at stake, said Ellen Swensen with the organization. 

“Each ballot is probably $2 of cost per taxpayer, considering the printing, stuffing and the paid postage, but more importantly is the vote and then people’s confidence in the vote,” she said. “What is their confidence that their vote will count when they get all these ballots and wonder what’s happening with dishonest people when they get these ballots?” 

Valencia resident Phyllis Grekin, who received a ballot for her son who has lived outside of California for several years, questioned the same.  

“I got a ballot for my son but he lives in Minnesota and he’s registered there,” said Grekin. “So, I mean, if I was sneaky I’d send his ballot in but I won’t do that. And I’m not the only one. I know a lot of people who are saying the same thing.” 

Similarly, another Santa Clarita resident received ballots for her two sons, who have not lived in California for at least the past seven years. 

“They each got ballots and if their parents weren’t civic-minded they could have just filled it out and mailed them in,” said local resident Dennis Fuerst, adding that, besides updating the registration system, election officials could have sent an application to residents who would like to receive their ballots by mail rather than sending them to all registered voters — a decision made statewide due to the pandemic, according to state officials. 

California considers voting twice in the same election a felony, with penalties such as hefty fines or jail time. 

In Los Angeles County, if a ballot is returned undeliverable the voter becomes inactive and, for purposes of protection, a signature verification per ballot is required, according to Registrar officials. 

“If any Los Angeles resident receives a ballot addressed to a voter who no longer lives there, we simply ask that you write ‘Return to sender — Person no longer lives here’ on the ballot, and place it back in the mail,” said spokesman Micke Sanchez via email. “No postage is necessary. Once we receive it, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office will update the voter registration database accordingly.” 

Figures found in the study come after the Election Integrity Project reported that more than 700 voters in the 25th Congressional District received two or more ballots each for the May special election. 

The Election Integrity Project has sent its findings to the California Secretary of State, and the state has rejected the findings, according to the organization’s president Linda Paine. 

State officials did not respond to requests for comment on the new study, but Swensen said the state and L.A. County have removed some of the names the organization has highlighted that should be inactive. 

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