Anna Marie Gott and Sharon Byrne
The authors are Santa Barbara residents.
Multiple problems and questions have been raised in the recent vote-by-mail election conducted by the city of Santa Barbara. In particular, concerns center around the District 1 election, where eight votes separate the top candidates.
While competitive races are to be desired, if registered voters’ votes didn’t count, or they weren’t allowed to participate in the election process, or those who participated knew they shouldn’t have, that amounts to election fraud.
Some of the problems below were identified by campaign volunteers in one or both camps during the election. The concern is around the process of how the city is handling vote-by-mail and worrisome irregularities, rather than alleging antics by either campaign.
—Some registered voters who voted by mail weeks before Election Day were contacted by campaigns on Election Day because their information showed that the voter’s ballot was still outstanding on Election Day. Somehow, their ballot had not been received or flagged as being received when their ballot had been mailed well in advance of Election Day.
—Some voters were told their signatures did not match their voter registration, or that they had forgotten to sign their ballot. These voters had until 5 p.m. Nov. 13 to rectify the issue by signing an affidavit. For some, rectifying this issue was easy. For others it proved to either be almost impossible or entirely impossible.
—When campaign volunteers tried to rectify the signature problem of one voter, they discovered that the voter who had returned a ballot did not live at the address at which they were registered. This left campaign volunteers wondering where the voter lived now, and if they could legally vote in the election.
—Some registered voters who submitted signed affidavits to correct their signature problem saw their ballots rejected multiple times, leaving their vote uncounted.
—One registered voter who submitted two signed affidavits could only have his vote count if he came to City Hall with his identification, the same identification he had previously provided with his second signed affidavit.
—A registered voter told campaign volunteers and witnesses that he had not submitted a ballot. Yet his ballot was received by City Hall.
—A registered voter told campaign volunteers he was not legally allowed to vote because he was not a citizen. The city of Santa Barbara had mailed, and received, his ballot, though he stated he had not cast it.
—Local media sites have registered comments from voters in District 1 complaining that they or their family members never received a ballot, despite having lived and voted in the district for years.
—There are also complaints that voters who could not legally cast a vote in District 1 due to place of residency or felony record did indeed vote. It’s not known whether their votes counted, or were discarded in the signature validation process.
As of today, the record of whose votes counted and whose votes did not is unavailable without sign-off from the City Attorney, as are the answers to other relevant questions about any returned and uncounted ballots.
Individually, these issues are concerning. Cumulatively, they raise alarms in a closely competitive race.
Both campaigns made their cases to the voters of District 1, had lots of volunteers, and worked hard to get out the vote. However, the process of vote-by-mail elections seems to have problems that the city must address to assure the integrity of its elections, now and for the future.
Identification and verification of instances where the city’s vote-by-mail process didn’t work need to be identified. Identification and verification of gaps in voter registration process for the state’s Motor Voter Program are also needed.
The outcome of the election is not the driver of this process. What matters is that Santa Barbara residents have confidence that the vote-by-mail system ensures fair elections in our city.
We are asking the powers that be to open a full investigation into the issues we have identified and raised, and to solicit voter feedback to determine if the election results are valid. We need the voters of District 1 to help us identify where there were problems in the voting process. If you had any problem voting (receiving your ballot, casting your ballot, or having your ballot count), or if you suspect someone voted who should not have done so, please email SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.gov and Clerk@SantaBarbaraCA.gov.