With false allegations of voter fraud trailing the California recall election, we checked in with Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who oversees the state’s elections, about how voting has progressed and how her office is dealing with efforts to undermine faith in the contest. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
How is voting going?
We’ve seen over eight million ballots mailed back thus far, which is a very significant number of ballots coming in. So that in itself is rather exciting, as well as ballots still being dropped off at the ballot boxes this morning.
We’ve had folks calling all of our hotlines asking where their polling places are or looking for additional information. It’s clear that people are interested in voting today.
Why have people been calling the hotlines?
Sometimes people have familiar polling places that they used to go to forever and now they’ve changed. We’ve had a couple of calls saying, “Where is it now?”
We’ve had folks who couldn’t find their ballots — misplaced them after they came in the mail. And we’ve had folks who left the state for a bit and wonder how can they still vote, those kinds of things.
But we’ve had no long lines, no folks waiting. We have a wait time of zero right now.
Any other hitches today?
We’ve seen small things. One polling place opening 10 minutes late, that kind of stuff.
Because of the fires, we’ve had some folks who moved away from their places. So we have to deal with that issue. We had one county the telephones were not servicing. We’ve just adapted and adjusted to every little new thing that comes along. But we haven’t had anything that’s been a major shutdown.
For those facing difficulties because of the wildfires, what else have you done?
We have made sure that all of those who were in the fire zones got their mail-in ballots.
We made sure that those who had to leave or who’ve lost their homes, that they had access to voting in various other ways, in terms of being able to go to another county to vote, making sure they had their mail-in ballots, making sure they knew where the ballot boxes were in other counties or other areas. So we have made outreach to all of those who might have been affected by any fire or any kind of tragedy.
We also set up remote mobile voting for our firefighters to make sure that those who are away from their homes had access to vote.
How are you preparing your office for the claims and possible litigation of election fraud that Republicans say they may bring?
I think the whole discussion of fraud across the nation kind of gives us a preview of what people will do. They may file various lawsuits. We know that they have been trying to collect information — they set up a website saying, ‘If you see any irregularities, show us your irregularities.’ And, you know, people go to court, and thus far across the nation, they’ve lost because there is no widespread fraud in the election process. But whether they decide to go to court or not, we will be there to defend the process.
We know that they will always talk about the fact that it was a stolen election or fraud, — or there’s a new term, “shenanigans.” We have no evidence of that, and when we’ve had allegations of any type, especially if there’s any specific information, we investigated. And as most folks have found across the nation, there is no there there.
So we’re not totally freaking out. We’re just making sure that everything we do is correct by the book. That we’ve taken our time to make sure that there’s transparency. And thus far, we’ve not found anything ourselves.
Are there extra steps of transparency that you’ve taken in this hyperpartisan era when the process itself is contested?
We do what we’ve always done. This is a unique election as a recall. But keep in mind, we’ve had four or five elections this year, special elections, as well as last November.
Anytime we discover something that might be an area of concern, we do our best to make sure that we shore that up. If we discover that somebody is complaining that the signs are too small, they couldn’t really see a sign at a voting booth, we try to make sure that next time, we do more. If folks feel disenfranchised because of language, if there’s enough folks in that community, we make sure that we increase the number of languages and make sure that those languages are clear.
And so it’s not like we are gearing up because Mr. Elder says something or someone else says something. We are aware that the question of fraud or questions of transparency are constant. And, as I travel to different registrars’ offices, I see them responding to different issues, like making sure that there’s space that people can observe the opening of ballots.
When I was in one area, they had basically created pathways for folks to be able to do that. So those are the kinds of things that we respond to all the time to make sure that those who want to build issues of transparency and fairness have an opportunity to do so.