Sowing doubt: Elections officials decry scam they say tries to mislead voters
Nevada County has been targeted by at least two different telephone misinformation scams in recent weeks designed to mislead voters about electoral processes, county officials say.
One such misinformation campaign has been targeting counties throughout California, including Nevada County, said Clerk-Recorder/Registrar Gregory Diaz, who issued a statement Tuesday on the matter.
Separately, several locals have recently called the county elections office to report a phone scam that tries to mislead people who have voted by informing them that their vote was not recorded.
The scam is being perpetrated by a group local to Nevada County that refers to themselves as the “Citizen Auditors of Nevada County,” according to Natalie Adona, assistant clerk-recorder/registrar of voters.
“The way this (scam) seems to work is that the people calling tell voters that they haven’t voted when they actually have. They’ll ask you, ‘did you vote’, and when the person answers ‘yes,’ they tell you that their ‘records’ show they didn’t vote,” Adona said.
She added that the elections office is concerned because the scam appears to be aimed at spreading doubt about the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the county’s electoral processes.
“This one really is a problem because I think, and the registrar’s office thinks, that the point of this is really just to sow doubts about our office,” she said.
Rick Silberman, a Nevada County resident who reported the scam to the election’s office, said that a woman affiliated with the Citizens Auditors group called him, claiming that the organization was reaching out to voters to “ensure a free and fair election.”
“The gist of the call was to ask me to confirm that I had not voted in 2020,” Silberman said. “When I said that I had, she said that according to the rolls in her possession, I had not.”
Silberman said that he immediately reported the fraudulent call to the elections office, adding that he is concerned about other unsuspecting residents who may fall prey to the scam.
“…People are falsely being led to believe that their vote was not counted and that the election process cannot be trusted…especially with the false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, I feel like this is something that people should know about,” he added.
Adona said that the elections office has been able to ascertain the identities of the specific individuals who are making the misleading calls, but said that officials are trying to handle the situation without the involvement of law enforcement at this time. She did not elaborate on what steps the elections office is taking against this organization, citing the sensitivity of her office’s ongoing investigation into the matter.
If a county resident receives a call from the fraudulent Citizens Auditors group, Adona said that the best thing to do is to promptly report the call to the elections office, which she said will assist officials in their investigation.
According to Diaz, his office has been receiving calls from a group requesting a “forensic audit” of county elections. The group does not appear to be affiliated with the local organization reported by Silberman and others, Adona said, although her office has not ruled out a connection between the two entities.
The group making the forensic audit requests of the registrar’s office appears to be a larger-scale entity targeting counties across California, officials say.
The pattern in this case appears to be that the unnamed group calls a county’s elections office and asks for a forensic audit, ostensibly to ensure the fairness and/or accuracy of election processes.
In reality, such an audit is not even authorized under California law and would have a decidedly negative impact on the county’s ability to verify election results, Diaz said.
“When someone calls for a forensic audit, they’re essentially asking for an independent third party to come into our election systems, review our logs, machines, and source code, and physically dissect the equipment,“ the registrar said.
“It is an intrusive process that adds an unsecured, non-authorized entity into our election systems — compromising our entire chain of custody and risking the security of our elections.”
Instead, Diaz said that voters should have confidence in California’s existing electoral laws and procedures that are specifically designed to both ensure the accuracy of results as well as prevent fraud.
Nevada County’s elections office, as with all such offices throughout California, has the Secretary of State’s Office test and certify its voting machines at county voting centers that use some of the “strictest standards in the U.S.,” the registrar said.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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