Californians shouldn’t look at voter suppression as something happening only in faraway states, like Georgia, Texas and Florida. A more subtle, insidious form of the fallout from Donald Trump’s big lie about widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential race is permeating California.
The lie is gaining enough traction to alarm voting officials, starting with California Secretary of State Shirley Weber. She’s met with nearly every county registrar of voters since taking office in February, and many told her that right-wing agitators are making their job more difficult.
“They’re attacking almost every registrar of voters that I have in the state of California who is trying to do their job,” Weber told the Black Caucus at the California Democratic Party convention recently.
Look no farther than San Luis Obispo County, where last week conservative activists pressured the GOP-led Board of Supervisors to make it harder to vote there. Last year the county recorded its highest ever turnout — 88% of registered voters — the fourth-highest turnout in the state.
“It was a highly successful election in San Luis Obispo County,” county Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong told me.
But that meant little to the San Luis Obispo County GOP. For the past couple of months, it has bought local radio ads that drop numerous innuendos about “election integrity” but don’t contain many facts.
Nevertheless, dozens of messages expressing concern about voter integrity flooded the San Luis Obispo County supervisors’ meeting last week during the public comment period. One accused Gong, a third-generation Californian, of being a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
Members of the county board apologized to Gong for the slur. But, ultimately, they buckled to conservative activists in a 3-2 party-line vote.
The result: Starting next year, the county will revert to its previous voting rules — those used before it had that record turnout. That means if voters want to cast their ballot in person, they may vote only on election day at one of 76 polling places, instead of over four days at one of four voting centers.
Donna Johnston, the Sutter County registrar of voters and current president of the statewide election officials organization, told me she didn’t know of any registrar who had left because of attacks on voting. She said she found Weber’s comments surprising and had not heard of complaints of attacks toward election officials, “certainly not to the level that she’s describing.”
But the abuse of election officials is “an unseen problem,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Federation, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to improve the election process. It plans to publish a national report on such attacks later this spring.
Many election officials “are in a position where they want to project strength,” Alexander said, noting that it is their job to declare the winners and losers of an election. “They don’t want to highlight these attacks, because it might show that it’s getting the best of them.”
Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said, “I was called a liar in the eight to 10 days around the (November) election more times that I have at any time in my entire life.”
Allen invited concerned voters to walk their ballot into the county voting office and watch it being scanned and tabulated.
“And some people still don’t believe it,” she said.
It’s a sign that Trump’s big lie is alive and well in California. (full story)