Secretary of State Padilla Hits the Wrong Target

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Secretary of State Alex Padilla is barking up the wrong tree when it comes to election cyber security.  Last month he went after House Republicans for refusing to provide extra federal money to “further protect and modernize our nation’s election infrastructure.  Protecting the integrity of our elections and ensuring confidence in our elections should never succumb to partisan politics – but that’s exactly what happened,” he said.

There are several things wrong with this partisan attack.  First, elections are run by the state, if there is a problem with election security, it should be up to the Secretary of State, Mr. Padilla, not the federal government to correct the problem.

Second, and more importantly, there is absolutely no sign a single vote anywhere in America in 2016 was corrupted by Russian cyber meddling, or anyone else’s meddling for that matter.  Establishment liberals remain in denial that a pompous reality TV star could have defeated them in 2016, so someone other than themselves must be to blame; it must be the Russians.  This explains a year and half feeding frenzy of Russian election interference on cable television, which Padilla himself now wallows in.

According to Padilla, “House Republicans joined the President in failing to act urgently to defend against ongoing Russian threats to interfere in our elections….  The threats have never been greater.”

Well, Secretary Padilla, if this is the case then why don’t you do your job.  Elections are run by the counties, overseen by the Secretary of State.  Has Padilla pointed out any problems with county election administration?  No, because there are none.  If there is a fear of Russian cyber hacking of the elections, the easy answer is to maintain a paper trail of the ballots so they can be compared with the electronic results.  Has Secretary Padilla ordered such a paper trail in every county?

What should really concern the Secretary of State is the incredibly low turnout in California elections.  According to the United States Election Project, as quoted in this month’s AARP Bulletin, only 29.9 percent to eligible adults voted in California in the 2014 midterm election, one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country.

California makes it very easy to register to vote, and does not require a voter ID to cast a ballot.  Thirty four states have some sort of voter ID law yet almost all these states had a higher turnout in 2014 than California.  This state merely requires a signature when at the polling place or on an absentee ballot.

California’s low turnout is not because we make it hard to vote here; it is easier than elsewhere where voter turnout is much higher.  And there is also no sign of any precinct problems or cyber attacks holding down our vote.

No, the problem in California is more obvious: we have made it so difficult to vote by a complex and confusing ballot.  California’s rule that the ballot be in multiple languages requires the use of small type on the ballot and is confusing to the voter.  It is turning off voters who simply do not have the time or the interest to wade through this complicated document.

The multiple language requirement is the result of the fact California has a large immigrant population, many of whom do not read and write English.  But the complex ballot is turning off the very people it is supposed to help.  If you were to overlay a voter turnout map with an ethnic population map, you would find that virtually all the high minority counties have the lowest voter turnout.

Among the very lowest is Secretary Padilla’s own county of Los Angeles, which is always near the bottom in turnout.  In the June primary, Los Angeles turnout, with its heavy minority population, was just 29 percent, against statewide turnout of 37.5 percent.  As a comparison, the turnout in heavily anglo Marin County was 56 percent.

There is a vast amount of fake news around voting.  The fable that millions of illegal aliens voted in 2016 and that denied Trump a majority of ballots is exactly that.  It is clear that non-citizens, especially people in the country illegally, are not jeopardizing their status by registering to vote.

Thus, many of the people who would supposedly be helped by our multi-language ballot are not eligible to vote to begin with.  It is probable that the number of citizen households with no English speaker in the household is fairly low.  And the problem can easily be resolved for non-English speakers by allowing them to request their ballot in their native language.

But neither Padilla nor legislative Democrats would ever allow this simple reform to take effect on the spurious argument that it would harm minority turnout.  In fact, it is probably just the opposite.  Counties in the primary with the highest numbers of retired people also had the highest turnout; retired people are used to working their way through complex ballots and they have the time to do so.  It is the young and working people who are too busy in their lives to wade through our multi-language and complicated ballot; thus the low turnout in Los Angeles and other heavily minority counties.

We should indeed make certain no foe is ever able to hack our voter registration or our ballots, and that is where the Secretary of State ought to be focused.  A paper back-up system is essential in every county.  This and trying to simplify the voting procedure would of far more value than Secretary Padilla’s silly partisan attacks.

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