Local official opposed to election bill
Nevada County’s elections officer criticized a state bill introduced last week that was designed to alleviate election fraud and encourage voter participation and confidence.
Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, authored the bill that would require voters to show proof of identity at their polling places, but Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Smith said she believed that instead of helping restore voter confidence, the bill would damage it.
“Voting is a right, not a privilege. When you start requiring people to do something in order to vote, you are going back in time,” she said.
Smith also criticized Keene for not contacting any of the elections officials in the counties – including Nevada County – he represents. She said she only learned of it when she was contacted by the Butte County elections official, which is also a part of Keene’s district, along with Lassen, Plumas, Yuba, and Sierra Counties, and a northern strip of Placer County.
Besides, she said, there is already a system in place for verifying identity.
The Help America Vote Act requires new voters to prove their identities when they register, or at the precinct polls if they have not previously voted in a federal election, and every signature on a ballot must be verified by three separate individuals.
The proposed bill may be tough to implement as well. “What about people who vote by mail? They don’t have to show anything.” Smith said.
But in a press release from Keene announcing the bill proposal, he said that “requiring voters to show identification and proof of residency is a simple common sense step toward accurate vote counts.”
The press release went on to say that it was needed because “reports of ballots cast in the name of dead people, by felons, or by illegal immigrants disenfranchise those who responsibly participate in the electoral process.”
But Smith said that election fraud was not a major concern in Nevada County, at least not during the last election. She said the elections office had to reject about two dozen ballots because their signatures were erratic and those individuals were sent letters.
She also said she had doubts over whether the counties would see any of the reimbursement money Keene promises them in the bill.
“Counties are still waiting for millions of dollars worth of claims to be to be reimbursed for mandated costs eligible for reimbursement,” she said. This money was suspended for an undetermined amount of time several years ago during a budget crunch time.
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