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By C. Jayden Smith
On the agenda for the next San Clemente City Council meeting on Tuesday night, Aug. 16, will be the discussion of a resolution that aims to implore state leaders to tighten up the election process.
Councilmember Steve Knoblock, with the support of Mayor Gene James, agendized the discussion at the July 19 meeting. The resolution asks the California State Legislature to “enhance the confidence of the voting public in election outcomes” by adopting five recommended changes to the California Election Code.
Those changes include requiring in-person voters and those who choose to vote by mail to provide valid photo identification to show United States citizenship, removing inactive voters from registered voter rolls on an on-going basis, prohibiting unsupervised ballot drop boxes, and performing an “automatic post-election audit” of at least 10% of precincts in any election.
In an interview with the San Clemente Times, Knoblock claimed that elections, “essential to a free society,” cannot be trusted because of evidence of ballot tampering, and that an accurate and fair system is important.
“The state of California hasn’t implemented rules presently to allow that, and the purpose of this resolution is to encourage our legislature to provide for safe elections by making sure that people only vote once, and that they’re actually entitled to vote,” he said.
He defined the population of people entitled to vote as being registered, not being convicted felons, not voting when underage, and only being able to vote once.
Knoblock said he thought multiple previous elections in the state could have been affected by ballot tampering, claiming that California’s electronic voting systems were proven to be connected to the internet and therefore vulnerable to hackers.
The California Secretary of State’s webpage on elections and voter information explains that no part of a voting system may be connected to the internet or electronically receive or transmit data through an exterior network at any time. In addition to that statute listed in Elections Code section 19205, there are “a multitude of layered security protocols” to ensure a safe election.
“At the state level, the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) is legally mandated to certify any voting system prior to its sale and use within California,” the website read. “As a result, the state has developed one of the most strenuous voting system testing and certification programs in the country.”
The various types of hardware and software testing, dual-installation architecture in the systems to prevent against viruses, and use of paper ballots are all part of the process.
Veteran news reporter Lewis Griswold was tasked with covering California’s election administration for the nonpartisan “pop-up newsroom” Votebeat following the 2020 presidential election.
In January 2021, he reported that during his investigation into claims of voter fraud he found few examples but concluded that the “election in California went smoothly.” He attributed those findings to the state’s laws and regulations governing voting in California.
Griswold also noted the post-election audits that registrars conduct following an election to ensure vote counts match the ballots.
Election office staffers conduct a manual tally of 1% of the precincts to achieve the audit, according to the Secretary of State. In Orange County, 2,422 ballots were reviewed during, what’s called, a risk limiting audit in November 2020, of which 41 contests were audited and no discrepancies were found.
Knoblock on Monday, Aug. 15, raised concerns with ballot drop boxes, believing that tampering could occur, and that being able to vote without proper identification was problematic as it could “change the government of a republic with no safeguards.”
Regarding language in the proposed resolution expressing the council’s desire to improve both the actual and perceived security of elections, Knoblock added that he’s had numerous conversations with individuals locally, countywide and beyond who’s faith in election integrity have diminished.
“I think it’s a common perception that elections have been tampered with and have not been accurate because of the number of ways (that exist) to cheat in an election,” Knoblock said.
Within the California Code of Regulations, drop boxes must be designed in a way that signals whether unauthorized access has occurred, among other language establishing guidelines for security measures.
When Ada Briceño, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, heard of Knoblock’s motion that shortly followed the councilmember’s last resolution centering on abortion, she called it “outrageous.”
“It just feels (like) a lot of grandstanding, with having baseless allegations of voter fraud,” Briceño said.
During the 2020 General Election, she said her party communicated well with the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ office, to where she felt confident and secure about her ballot and millions of others.
Briceño felt that voters should be given every option available to be able to vote, and that photo identification requirements and limiting drop boxes put obstacles in the way.
“(This situation) is very difficult because you want your city council to spend time ensuring that issues like homelessness (are addressed) and your city is safe, rather than having these issues that are nationwide come to be divisive, locally,” she said.
Knoblock said the idea behind the resolution is that if enough communities speak up about the crucial nature of having election integrity, through resolutions of similar language, the state legislature may listen.
He also claimed that the Democratic legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom favor a system that allows people who are not “entitled to vote” to participate in elections because their party receives the benefit.
“Illegal immigration at the border allows potentially millions of people to vote for government largesse, which means the Democrats can keep their power by not making sure that only citizens vote and only vote once,” Knoblock said.
As of this story’s publishing, Mayor James, the Republican Party of Orange County, and the Orange County Registrar of Voters could not be reached for comment.
The San Clemente City Council will conduct a special meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 16, beginning at 5 p.m. with the first business portion. The second portion, during which the resolution will be discussed, will begin after the closed session ends, at around 6:30 p.m.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.