A Central Valley politician was charged with voter fraud. Right-wing conspiracies took over

By Mackenzie Mays,
Los Angeles Times,
March 18, 2024


“We just need to have eyes on things after everything that’s been going on,” Hicks said as he rushed to his SUV to tail officials down dark farmland back roads to more drop boxes where ballots were waiting to be collected, all part of his duties as a self-appointed election observer.

Hicks, a real estate agent from Lodi, believes California’s universal vote-by-mail process is fraught with fraud risks, echoing unfounded messaging from the far right that election officials nationwide have worked to combat since Donald Trump and his allies began blaming his 2020 presidential loss on claims of fraud that have been shot down by numerous courts. 

That paranoia is difficult to dismiss in this part of California’s Central Valley, though, after a local politician was arrested on allegations of a slew of crimes involving election fraud.

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Unlike in Shasta County, where a similar movement is playing out, San Joaquin is not a Republican stronghold, and voters here elected President Biden over Trump in 2020.

Election fraud is rare, but skepticism of the democratic process can be a good thing, said Kim Alexander, executive director of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan election watchdog group. 

Alexander has seen a shift in her decades of election work and said that while “false narratives” about fraud shouldn’t drive the conversation, California officials should not ignore them.

“There is a stubborn minority of voters that are subscribing to election fraud conspiracy theories who are very vocal, and even though I don’t think the general public agrees with those theories, they still resonate,” she said. “It’s definitely taken a toll on voter confidence across the board.”

Alexander said the Khan case isn’t proof of greater fraud but proof that anyone who attempts it will be punished.

“It is one example of an election crime that’s being prosecuted. It doesn’t mean that it’s rampant; it means that the process is working,” she said. “That sends a message to anybody else who might try to cheat the process that it’s a losing proposition.” 

San Joaquin County Supervisor Steve Ding, a Republican, says ballot boxes are “rife for mischief.” But he admits the issue has spiraled out of control in his community, saying “everybody needs to take a breath” and “back off” Hale, who has faced personal attacks as the elections chief. (Full Story)