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IV. Documented Types of Voter Suppression and Election Fraud in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Primaries
Widely documented are the widespread polling site closures affecting Maricopa County, comprising Arizona’s most populous region, as well as the entire state of Rhode Island. While the realities of these polling site closures and their impact in suppressing the vote are relatively uncontroversial, and have been covered extensively by mainstream media outlets, it is less often acknowledged that these closures disproportionately affected one of the Democratic presidential candidates: Senator Sanders.
It is fairly straightforward to demonstrate that this was the case. Candidate Clinton outperformed Sanders in early and absentee voting in these states, whereas Sanders fared better on election day. Thus, because of the early voting disadvantage, even if polling site closures affected the two candidates’ election day vote totals equally, voter suppression still had the effect of disproportionately affecting Sanders.
It is important to note that Sanders was projected to win Rhode Island by a healthy margin, and recently leaked e-mails from top DNC staffers reveal knowledge of the likely outcome of polling site closures in decreasing Sanders’ vote share while referring to one of the responsible Rhode Island officials as “one of ours” (see the below section on the WikiLeaks DNC email archive).
California and the NPP Coup
California holds the largest number of pledged delegates and falls towards the end of the primary season. It held a modified-closed primary where No Party Preference voters (NPP) can vote for the presidential candidates of their choice within the Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent Party designations. Almost 50% of CA is registered to vote (44% Democrat, 29% Republican, 24% NPP). With NPP voters making up approximately 4.2 million voters, those who wished to target the Democratic primaries required a strategy for this group to swing the results of the election.
Several advance polls projected that Clinton would receive 49% Democratic primary voters in CA and Sanders would be very close at 47% overall.1RegisteredNPP voters, however, were projected to go for Sanders by up to 70% to 30%.
Based on the reports (voter testimonials) to Election Justice USA, NPP suppression tactics varied greatly including 1) Refusal to include NPP presidential voting options on regular ballots; 2) Refusal to mail presidential ballots to NPP vote-by-mail voters unless explicitly requested; 3) Refusal to provide mandatory notices to vote-by-mail NPP voters of their right to a Presidential Preference ballot; 4) Refusal to inform NPPvoters at the polls of their right to a Presidential Preference ballot; 5) Refusal to provide adequate ballots and/or voter indexes, despite the State Law requirement of 75% voter roll coverage; 6) Refusal to clarify to voters that American Independent is a political party and does not signify “independent” (NPP) status. We filed a lawsuit in an attempt to address these issues, but relief was not granted.
Party Selection Confusion
Critical toNPP voter problems was confusion about whether this would be the preference for many who intended to register as independents. Voters easily confusedNPP voting status with the American Independent Party (AIP). Within the two weeks following an April 17, 2016 LA Times article clarifying that AIP was an actual political party, often given to racism, nearly 32,000 voters left the party, resulting in a 6.7% exodus.2 Comparatively, the Democratic and Republican party’s variances were less than three-tenths of 1% in the same time frame
Poll Worker Training
Of the more than 700 complaints that Election Justice USA received regarding the California Primary, almost 100 of them were from poll workers. From our own reports along with many more posted on social media,large numbers of poll workers were instructed not to provide any direction or assistance to understand the intent of the voter, but only follow the voters instructions and to give them a provisional if they did not use the proper wording for their preferred party to receive a ballot that includes the presidential candidates. In some counties poll workers were told, “If the voter questions why there are no presidential candidates on the ballot they are given, tell them the NPP ballot does not have presidential candidates.”
Excerpt from Election Officer Training Manual in Sonoma County page 49:
“A No Party Preference voter will need to request a crossover ballot from the Roster Index Officer. (Do not offer them a crossover ballot if they do not ask).”
Election Justice USA Complainant writes: “I am a poll worker in Santa Clara County. Literature and training class has informed me that I cannot educate NPP voters that they have different ballot options. I have called the county registrar and left a voicemail stating that this was incorrect and asked for all inspectors to be called and notified. (my only option). My inspector tonight at set up (6/6/2016) told me again that NPP voters should be given only non-partisan ballots and do not let them know of their options. I showed the inspector the CA State Poll Worker Training Book which explains this. I was told that she would look into it.”
Another complainant submits this testimony: “As a poll worker in Sonoma County today, I was very surprised by the high numbers of voters who were listed as “vote-by-mail” but did not know they were and never received a ballot. As a result, they were required to vote provisionally. I hope someone will follow-up the provisional votes, to check they truly will be counted. I have also seen numerous reports that in many counties NPP voters were universally required to vote provisionally.”
From yet another county: “When I went to vote yesterday, a NPP voter was in front of me. They were trying to give her a provisional envelope. I asked that they give her a yellow crossover envelope so that her vote could be counted. The poll worker informed me that all Alameda County poll workers had been trained to put NPP crossover ballots into provisional envelopes. This occurred at precinct 336100 which is located on the corner of Center Street and 14th St. in Oakland California at around noon yesterday.”
Lack of Standards
Each county used varying processes for ballot handling, different terminology, mismatched equipment and distinctive poll worker training resulting in inconsistencies, mass confusion and even arguments amongst aligned supporters. Disparities on this scale result in voter suppression. Some counties were instructed to only give the party ballots when the voter asked for a “crossover” ballot to their intended party, while others were instructed to only give provisional ballots if the NPP voter wanted to vote for a presidential candidate.
This lack of clarity and standardization, causing extreme confusion, prompted the first Election Justice USA lawsuit filed in California by attorney, Bill Simpich.3The case alleged that voter materials sent out in advance of the June 7 primary lacked critical instructions necessary for an informed electorate in violation of state elections laws. The lawsuit addresses the “mass confusion” surrounding the participation of “no party preference” (NPP) voters, who did not indicate a party preference upon registration in California’s Presidential Primary,” Shyla Nelson, spokesperson for Election Justice USA said in our corresponding pressrelease: “The new evidence demonstrates non-uniform, contradictory, and omitted instructions to poll workers and voters; these practices violate California law and threaten to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of California voters from across the political spectrum.”
There was more confusion with discrepancies between Secretary of State published instructions and the details being distributed by each county. As an example, the “Official Voter Information Guide” does not clearly state anywhere that “No Party Preference” voters may request a “crossover” party ballot; the term to which many poll workers were trained voters must use to obtain specific party ballots.4
Also, the LA County Clerk document below states the deadline to request a crossover ballot is March 18, when the state mandated deadline was May 31, 2016 according to the CA Secretary of State’s Office.5
Below are more examples of official county forms that show a lack of standards across the state resulting in confusion.
Nevada County does not state any deadline or instructions for NPP voters to ask for cross over or party ballots (American Independent, Democratic and Libertarian).
Riverside County stating the deadline is April 22, 2016:
San Bernardino County stating the deadline is April 1, 2016:
Sonoma County stating the deadline is April 15, 2016:
Vote by Mail Ballots (VBM)
About half of CA voters are VBM voters. VBM voters who had an NPP ballot and wanted to vote for a presidential candidate were instructed to bring in their ballots along with the envelope they came in to the correct polling location and to surrender their ballot to receive the correct party ballot to exercise their right to vote. We have hundreds of complaints regarding the VBM ballots and the testimonies are as varied and complex as the supposed structure of the CA electoral process itself.
An Election Justice USA complainant writes: “I registered to vote and did not choose or register to vote by mail. I received vote by mail packet but because I did not register myself to vote by mail I just thought they sent those out to everybody. i put the packet in where i keep all my mail to go through and forgot about it. Then on June sixth I was reading an article that spoke about voting by mail and how if you registered to vote by mail you should return your packet seven day before the election and if you could not do that that you could walk your ballot into your assigned polling place. A bell went off in my head and I realized somehow my registration was mysteriously changed to vote by my mail and that was why I received that packet. It was not an offered convenience. I DID NOT REQUEST TO VOTE BY MAIL. I panicked and started searching for the packet I received in the mail. My daughter received one in the mail as well even know SHE DID NOT REGISTER TO VOTE BY MAIL either. Luckily I kept both voting packets. When I opened my packet there was everything except the ballot. There was a ballot sleeve but no ballot. Me and my daughter went to the polling place. My daughter’s ballot was in her packet so she was able to submit her ballot. My packet had no ballot. I showed the people at the polling place on 201 Allen Avenue that I had everything else in the packet including the sleeve but not the ballot. They then told me that because the ballot was not there that if I wanted to vote I would and could only do so with a provisional ballot. So I was forced to fill out a provisional ballot. During this process they actually tried to mark the box on the form as new voter. I through a fuss and they figured it out. But I am a registered democrat and I was forced to use a Provisional ballot at my own polling place. Something is not right!!!! I am mad and upset that I was not able to vote at my polling place because my voter registration was tampered with and changed to vote by mail without my knowledge or consent.”
Election Justice USA had many complaints about being switched to VBM similar to this one: “Today I checked my voter status. It had me listed as permanent vote by mail. I would never register to vote by mail. My daughter and I vowed to always vote at our polling place together in person. It is something we are proud and love to do together.”
Provisional ballots (now appropriately being called placebo ballots) have been treated quite differently than other ballots. Hundreds of California Election Justice USA complainants have sent testimonies that they were forced to use provisional ballots at their polling locations. Many of these were NPP voters who wanted to vote for a democratic presidential candidate. Those that understood their rights to a democratic crossover ballot and firmly stood their ground, demanding the democratic ballot, received the correct ballot. Of those, often times voters observed their ballots being put in a provisional envelope.
An example from an Election Justice USA report: “I switched my affiliation from Democrat to NPP on 03/08/2016. When I search for my voter registration in the Contra Costa County database, it returns no results. When I went to vote today, I was told that I was registered to vote absentee and that I would need to vote provisionally. I was given a democratic ballot and a provisional envelope.”
There were several testimonies similar to this one: “Poll workers denied me a crossover ballot because I was registered NPP, until I showed them that legally I was allowed a crossover democrat ballot. I saw them doing this to most people. More provisional ballots than actual ballots. Machines weren’t working. I had to redo my ballot and only on the 3rd time did it work.”