Group halts SLO County District 2 recount

December 29, 2022

SLO County building where recount was underway

Press release from San Luis Obispo County Citizens Action Team

The San Luis Obispo County Citizens Action Team (SLOCCAT) issues this preliminary report of its findings and observations related to the two public recounts of the 4th District and 2nd District Supervisorial elections held in June and Nov. 2022. We ended the pending District 2 recount on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 and this report outlines why we are doing so.

SLOCCAT is a group of dozens of local citizen volunteers who are concerned that voter confidence in California elections at all levels, and the system California has used for conducting elections, is at an all-time low. At the same time public confidence has plummeted, controversy surrounding the elections themselves is at a record high.

SLOCCAT undertook efforts to get into the details of the local system that is governed by state law and the elections code and regulations. We undertook these efforts — at considerable personal financial expense, time and effort. Our citizen volunteers spent hundreds of hours working precincts and poll observing on Election Day and at the SLO county elections office observing, taking notes, reviewing documents and materials, and asking specific questions of our election officials who ran these elections.

The following should not be taken as a criticism of these officials’ integrity or competency in performing the tasks state law requires them to perform. We believe the system they are required to implement is fundamentally flawed, lacks auditability and thus the public cannot effectively audit or certify its reliability or accuracy. Their task is not enviable: they administer a flawed system created by the California Legislature. Reform is essential if citizens’ confidence in the electoral process is to be restored.

Summary Findings

California’s election system is not designed to be accountable through a traditional audit process that is the standard of accountability nationally, in business and non-profit organizations. Moreover, information about key system outputs cannot reasonably be obtained by ordinary citizens through the limited statutory processes (recounts, election contests, public records requests) provided for by California law.

Darcia Stebbens, a certified public accountant with substantial experience in business and forensic accounting and one who has sought and become familiar with these limitations, led our SLOCCAT team. SLOCCAT participated in two public recounts of SLO County supervisorial elections in 2022 (the 4th District June Primary and the 2nd District November General election).

SLOCCAT consulted with lawyers, statisticians and others with substantial experience both nationally and in California recounts, election contests and public records search processes. We find and conclude that our election system is designed to be unaccountable through commonly used and understood accounting and auditing practices.

Reports permitted by state law to be made public during recounts do not reconcile perceived discrepancies, are not understandable either separately or as considered together, and do little to shed light on how accurately and operationally the system works.  It is more like a set of puzzle pieces that cannot be put together.  In reality, the system operates more like a black box and we are not allowed to open the box and see the contents.

We, as citizens, are asked to trust a process which at its front end is, as a State Auditor Report in 2015 stated, based entirely on the “honor system.”  Its common features:

A universal automatic voter registration process with universal mail balloting (ballots are sent to all active registered voters listed on California’s VoteCal system voter rolls, as demonstrated by a 2019 federal court settlement with the California Secretary of State and Los Angeles County’s Registrar of Voters)

  • No requirement that voters must provide photo or other personal identification at the polls
  • No verification of present actual residency entitling the voter to vote
  • No verification of citizenship
  • No timely cleaning of bloated voter rolls to remove deceased voters or voters who have moved from their registered addresses, many of whom have not lived at the addresses they are registered to vote on both California’s active and inactive voter rolls.

This system since 2015 has created incentives for organized groups to not only engage in “ballot harvesting” but also in “ballot trafficking” – paid efforts to collect ballots and voted ballots at voters’ doors and which affords unchecked, unlimited opportunities for the unscrupulous to coerce voters to vote and even how to vote.

All these practices, working together, picture a system without any effective checks or deterrents to prevent abuses.  The lack of prosecutorial interest in policing this system, together with a bureaucratic imperative to just get the election over and done, leaves the system wide open for abuse.

Lacking an accountable audit system, relying on an “honor system” for voter registration, promoting and implementing an automatic voter registration system without effective verification of voters’ identities, and piling on top of those “features” the mailing of ballots to anyone listed on its bloated voter rolls, voters are asked to simply trust the public officials who run California’s Elections.

Many commentators have noted that these voting systems’ deficiencies actually include more stringent penalties and impediments for those who seek in good faith to investigate and shine light on these systemic problems, than those who can act with virtually no threat of punishment for abusing the systemic features we describe above.

SLOCCAT finds it impossible to conclude that the system isn’t designed for abuse.

Finally, in the last few years, the media and partisans have engaged in a wide and broad-scale project to shame and discredit those who call or attempt to call attention to these systemic deficiencies and vulnerabilities.  All of these problems allow for administrative problems to persist, and unfortunately foster an environment in which abuse can occur – on a widespread basis – potentially affecting statewide and especially local elections such as those we were privileged to examine.

Specific Findings

1. This system cannot produce a clean list of voters who are entitled to vote.

2. This system cannot produce a list of who actually voted.

3. This system cannot produce a list of total ballots sent out that matches the number of voters on the voting rolls at the time the ballots are mailed out.

4. This system has virtually eliminated the checks of the traditional precinct voting system of neighbors running polling places who can identify neighbors voting in person, an important check on reliability.

5. This system utilizes technology for tabulating ballots that is proprietary, totally insulated from any citizen accountability, and for that reason alone is not trustworthy. Statutory logic and accuracy equipment tests are insufficient to audit such a system that has numerous opportunities for local and systemic inputs that could affect the tabulation of ballots. However, tabulation is at the “caboose end” of a railroad train that operates “driverless” in the system described above.

6. There were a number of detailed problems with the way the system worked in SLO County relating to duplicate mail ballot votes sent to voters, of non-delivery of mail ballots to voters, of discouragement by precinct polling officials of precinct voters from voting in person or surrendering their mail ballots to vote in person, and voters assigned to “mail ballot only” precincts who were deprived of the opportunity to vote in person, and major mistakes in over 50,000 voter guides sent out with incorrect information and omitting candidates’ statements.

Also, county election officials failed to provide public notice and denied SLOCCAT election canvass observers access to observe duplication of damaged ballots and other actions before the official canvass was concluded.  A Supplemental Report containing greater detail on the problems identified in this item will be issued forthwith.

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This is what SLO Trib Tom Fulks asserts. “Theirs is an intricate con: 1. Surrendered ballots…”This now appears a deliberate…gunk…slow it down”. Tom that’s speculation. 2. “facts or not… GOP wants — needs — to play victim. That’s speculation. 3. “…GOP majority on the Board of Supervisors set up the slow vote count…twice”. Tom this is a missed opportunity! If the Sec. of State mandated an intervention such as an equipment update by a certain date and it was not met, then that would be a valid precondition or cause for a slow count. My speculation: A RCA investigation may show that the slow vote count was due to Newsome locking us down, unilaterally changing the mail-in ballot process and the Sec. of State not giving the tools to keep pace with past elections. But, without an investigation both mine and Fulks opinion is speculation. The clarity between a “cause” and a “missed opportunity” is learned in advanced RCA and difficult to discern for a novice until you are a skilled investigator. Tom could have addressed the bullet points from the election challenger, but instead ignores addressing their points and is audaciously trying to deflect to the conservative Board of Supervisor members on a missed opportunity. Deflection never works if you are trying to assert another entity is worse than another.

I’m not surprised to hear these results. The system is corrupt. The right has become the left and the left has become the right.

I find it interesting that when I go to my various doctor visits, a photo ID and proof of insurance is required every time. When I write an occasional check, photo ID and residential address required, when I get my taxes done next month, photo ID and S.S #, address required, when I recently renewed my driver’s license, photo ID required, I get my prescriptions ID and date of birth required.

But to vote, one of the most important things we do as a nation and democracy, no photo ID, proof of residence or citizenry NOT required? Please tell me, how can that be?

It reminds me years ago when we in this state say, your 15-year-old daughter still needs parental permission for a field trip for school, but she can go to her counselor saying she’s pregnant and wants an abortion without parents being notified. Really?

The same mindset of ignorance and hypocrisy has now taken place in our once simple election process by the Progressive elitist who are continually driven by the greed for power and control of everything.

Voting is a privilege and right to every legal citizen of this nation. A photo ID, proof of residence, and legal citizenship should be required to cast a vote. Period. To do anything short of that is wrong for such an important part of our nation. The selective democracy by elitist left is absolutely more proof of their complete hypocrisy.

So true, we are constantly required to identify ourselves except when it comes to voting. Why?

While I understand the emotional tendency to gloat in your allegiance over “nothing to see here” and “why did you look?” mentality, this investigation is a $50k+ gift of a free investigation to SLO County that Cano will surely ignore. Normally, when you finish in last place in 58 counties when canvassing votes, there would be pressure from the Secretary of State to hire a contractor/investigator, a root cause analysis team and spend taxpayer money. Instead, an outside group paid the county to investigate shortcomings. Additionally, underperforming Cano was trying to double dip the investigator as she supervised Superior Court clerks.

In the normal progression after paying a contractor to investigate, the state or county would pay to assemble a root cause analysis team, then an intervention team to vote on remediations, assign action plans and deadlines for correction with yearly review of effectiveness. I use the FACES acronym: Feasibility, Acceptability, Cost, Effectiveness, and Sustainability; all of which require scoring and the last two require follow-up auditing. Now, Cano can just ignore the whole issue unless the Secretary of State pushes to uncover the same bullet-pointed flaws. Clearly, the spreadsheet count issue for provisional ballots required a daily peer check which if done failed. Then instead of immediate transparency so that the remaining 9k+ votes would be counted in a timely manner, Cano froze in the headlights and brought in the DA to delay counting until December 7th. That delayed action to count 9k votes (as listed on the Sec of State website on Dec 6th) in itself is an error precursor called “time pressure”. So, if I was investigating, I would first look for errors done on the last day of counting. Whether you use 5 Whys, Fault Tree/taproot, Ishikawa fishbone, DMAIC, MORT or my favorite HFACS there are legitimate bullet items in the press release that need action items and the public needs to be informed as to the outcome of the RCA before the next election. If we don’t question the methodology, which seems to suck at this point then nothing will improve and SLO will hold up the next state election results again.

My observation from working with software packages that rely on a satellite office to manage cell summation on a spreadsheet means the organization has failed by not investing in custom software solution or at a minimum provide for a uniform xml or xltx archive extension template. This means each of the 58 counties are winging-it on the provisional spreadsheets.

My pet peeve with Cano is that there is only one kiosk in the whole county (Odyssey and some older program) on the 2nd floor behind the security search train and zero access to see court filings on the internet. But, for the Santa Barbara Superior Court I can search for filings at home. It’s a head-shaker when you ask the Civil/Family Law clerk at the window to find and print out a court filing and she says you can probably find it quicker than me over there at that kiosk and then you can’t export it to the window for checkout like you can over across the street at the SLO Recorder’s office. Sorry to rant on the court side of Monterey Street, but that sucks too as they don’t take credit cards for record requests.

Please. Make. It. Stop.

Specific findings require actual “specifics”.

My god these aren’t even “specific allegations”. This dead (sloc)cat doesn’t bounce.

The exact same ‘failed and flawed’ voting system allowed Peshong, Compton and Arnold to be ‘elected’.

Now that it’s over, time to start holding the angry Bruce Gibson accountable. Every word and action will be under a microscope. The entry log is now open. Bruce, you will be held accountable.

In other words…

You ran out of money.

It’s unfortunate that your only response to this very detailed well researched piece was “They ran out of money!”

Our election process is broken and needs to be reworked, keeping in mind that voting is the one thing that keeps us a Representative Republic… When we lose that we lose freedom… That price tag is PRICELESS!!!

Over time the voters will know the best ways to cheat. So expect the holes in security to grow not tighten with your attitude. Expect as the holes are detailed over the next few weeks the average person can commit voter fraud without being concerned. That is what their report tells me. So the people with the fewest morals should prevail.

Next round of elections should become even more interesting….

What a load of malarkey. This is is the same “system” that has been counting California’s votes for decades. It has only been with the rise of the MAGA Republicans and sore losers such as Trump and Lake that the system has been questioned. It is, in fact, the same system used in Utah. Of course, there are no grievances in that state because of a Republican majority.

Bottom line, it looks like this organization ran out of money and knows that a recount in District 2 would reveal the same result, as did the recount in District 4.

Wrong, mass mail out of ballots has not been practiced for “decades.” Absentee ballots yes, mass mail out from outdated voter roles, definitely not. They are similar but not the same.

Last two election cycles our home received more ballots than persons living there. That’s not a claim of fraud, just sloppiness. Wether it made that much difference…who knows, we’ll probably never know for certain. But in this case we are talking about just 13 votes.