But local Republicans believe risk of fraud remains
An allegation that 3,000 voting ballots in the Nov. 3 election were mailed to empty UCSB undergraduate dorms was officially deemed not true by the Santa Barbara County Republican Party.
The party wrote in a press release that it met with Renee Bischof, the county chief deputy registrar of voters, last week to investigate the allegation, which was made by Thomas Cole of Analytics 805.
The Elections Office and local Republican leaders agreed that results proved that the majority of undergraduate students had changed their voting addresses by the time the ballots were mailed in October 2020.
At the time of the primary in March 2020, ballots mailed to the undergraduate UCSB dorms totaled 3,612. However, the number of ballots mailed for the November election totaled 122.
“It’s just false. There’s just no truth to those allegations, and that data is totally publicly available,” Joe Holland, the county’s director of elections, told the News-Press Monday. “There’s nothing hidden about any of that data.”
Mr. Cole alleged that someone in charge of the mail at the building illegally filled out the ballots for the students and sent them directly back to the election board, which would be a felony.
In response to the claims, Mr. Holland said that anyone who wants to come in and watch the process is welcome to, adding that the County Elections Office routinely receives visits from the Grand Jury, the media and even junior high school classes.
“It does seem strange to be talking about this in late June,” the director of elections said. “It’s a completely open process. Every single signature we have on file on every single vote-by-mail envelope is reviewed and observed, and if it does not match the signature we have on file, or if it’s missing, we send a letter to the voter to have them correct that.”
But the Republican Party is not totally convinced and wrote in its press release that “this does not mean that there is no fraud.”
Bobbi McGinnis, the chair of the party, said that while she was among the group that met with Ms. Bischof and believed the Elections Office was open and transparent about the processes, she said she still has concerns about “the lack of voter photo ID at the polls and the inability of Elections to verify signatures and citizenship before the ballot is cast.”
Ms. McGinnis told the News-Press that she was told by the Elections Office that the polls put out precinct sheets that are mandated by the state, and as people vote, their names are crossed off, updating every hour.
“Anybody can walk in there and pick a name off that list, go in, sign that person’s name and get a ballot — no verification of signature, no verification with voter ID,” she said. “We think the way to solve that easily is to have voter photo ID there at the polls, and, in fact, we don’t think vote-by-mail should go to anybody who hasn’t been verified by some sort of voter ID.”
The county Republican chair said she believes everyone should care about election integrity, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. She said that most Americans feel that voters should be required to show photo ID just like they would “when buying a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of wine or getting on a plane.”
“It’s just that simple,” Ms. McGinnis said. “I don’t see how that’s discriminatory against people.”
Darcel Elliott, the chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, told the News-Press that she doesn’t believe it’s surprising that the Santa Barbara County Republican Party would be pushing a voter photo ID requirement since “this is a strategy being used by Republicans nationwide to reduce voter turnout.”
Citing articles from the ACLU and Taylor & Francis Online, she told the News-Press that the ACLU reported 11% of American citizens lack government-issued photo identification, “with huge disparities” between white Americans and Americans of color in who has photo identification and who does not.
She said 25% of blacks lack government-issued photo ID compared to 8% of whites.
Finally, she referenced a study published in 2020 by John Kuk, Zoltan Hajnal and Nazita Lajevardi, which found that the gap in turnout between more racially diverse and less racially diverse counties grew more in states enacting new strict photo ID laws than it did elsewhere.
Ms. Elliott told the News-Press, “The Democratic Party will always resist rolling back on voting rights in this country, our state and county, and voter photo ID requirements are blatant attempts to block mostly people of color from voting.”