The article in the News-Press’ May 30th edition entitled “Anatomy of an investigation into a non-investigation” (a/k/a “The Investigator” column) is premised on a fundamental error that renders the entire article baseless and downright wrong.
The article is founded on the premise that “forwarding ballots to alternative addresses is a felony.” There is no provision of law that makes the forwarding of ballot materials in California illegal.
In fact, the opposite is true, as in October 2021 the California secretary of state issued an instruction letter on how one county should forward ballots erroneously sent to the wrong county election office.
There is nothing illegal about a roommate or the dormitory mailroom putting a label with a temporary address on a ballot for someone temporarily at another address due to the pandemic, or resending the ballot in another envelope.
However, California ballots do have printed instructions on the outside envelope that says “Return Service Requested.” What that means is that if the U.S. Postal Service gets the ballot envelope returned to them with the old address crossed out or marked “No Such Addressee,” the USPS will return the ballot to the Elections Office for further action on the bad address, such as inactivating the voter file or sending an address inquiry postcard.
If the USPS has a correct forwarding address on file for the absent voter, the USPS will print this on the return label it uses to return the ballot to the Election Office. If a forwarding address is simply written on the returned ballot, the USPS may follow the Return Service Requested process, but the correctly re-addressed envelope will often get forwarded as marked, especially if a new stamp is attached.
California elections officials use the “Return Service Requested” to get information about errors in voter addresses. They have a pre-printed postcard they can send out to the temporary address asking the voter to correct their registration.
There is another flaw in the foundation of this article, and that is that all of the votes for that Isla Vista precinct were from either illegally forwarded or fraudulently cast ballots. That is not the case. It is perfectly legal for someone temporarily away from their voting residence to ask for a mail-in ballot to be sent to another address.
In anticipation of the mail-out of ballots to every registered voter in California, everyone got that little green postcard telling them about the process and asking that they ensure the Elections Office had the correct address to mail the ballot.
Thus, the “3,000” voters the article raises questions about, could simply have asked, by mail or online, to have their ballot from their regular Isla Vista precinct mailed to a temporary address. Such ballots would have been shown as having been cast in that Isla Vista precinct, and those ballots would have been perfectly legal and proper, as would any ballots that were mailed but did not need forwarding to get to the voter.
Lastly, the article tried to make a big deal out of the failure to investigate this alleged “fraud” by various government offices. As discussed above, the faulty premise of an allegation shows there to be no basis for any assertion of fraud.
And besides, the existing process of ballot verification, including signatures, that is built into the vote-by-mail system would have caught some hint of such a vast conspiracy as alleged by Mr. Cole and Mr. Erringer.
In the end, this entire article is just another manifestation of the “Big Lie.” There was no reason whatsoever that any government office go beyond the simple analysis above that showed the underlying basis of this cockamamie conspiracy theory outlined in this article was a waste of good ink and newsprint. No investigation was needed.
Editor’s note: Kevin Ready noted he is an author and attorney who formerly served as counsel for the Santa Barbara County Election Office and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.