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July 6, 2021

"No evidence of fraud in Riverside County 2020 election, grand jury says"

From the Press-Enterprise:

By JEFF HORSEMAN | jhorseman@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: July 6, 2021 at 1:39 p.m. | UPDATED: July 6, 2021 at 1:42 p.m.

A civil grand jury probe into how Riverside County handled the November 2020 election found no evidence of election fraud or malfeasance by those who ran polling places and counted votes.

While there were “minor departures from expected election procedures” that were later corrected, “the election was conducted as required” and “votes were accurately counted and verified,” read a 41-page report posted on the grand jury’s website Friday, July 2.

In an emailed statement, county spokeswoman Brooke Federico said the county is reviewing the report and will respond within the legally required 90-day timeframe. That means the county should respond by the end of September.

Civil grand juries are citizens empaneled by a judge to examine public agencies’ inner workings, identify problems and suggest improvements.

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Questions and doubts about the Nov. 3 general election persist more than 7 months after the results were certified, driven by former President Donald Trump and his supporters who falsely claim the election was rigged. Courts have rejected dozens of lawsuits seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, and anger over Biden’s win fueled the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Roughly 82% of Riverside County’s registered voters — more than 1 million people — cast ballots in the general election, the highest turnout since at least 1999 if not in county history. Of those votes, 89% were cast by mail, according to the jury.

Unlike past elections, every California voter got a ballot in the mail to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and the county consolidated its vast network of neighboring voting precincts into 130 voter assistance centers that could be used by any registered voter.

Locally, voters complained of receiving more than one ballot and getting their voter information guides after they mailed their ballots. Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer said built-in safeguards ensure voters can’t vote more than once and that her office sent the voter guides to the post office before the ballots, an assertion backed up by the jury.

Spencer also has accused District Attorney Mike Hestrin of interfering with her office. Hestrin denied any wrongdoing and the jury’s report did not address Spencer’s allegations.

Citing voters’ concerns and ongoing election doubts, the jury decided to investigate the county’s handling of the last election. Jurors interviewed dozens of election workers, city clerks, city managers, Sheriff’s Department staff, elected officials and others, visited Registrar of Voters’ facilities on Nov. 3 and 4 and examined 76 documents and 18 websites and videos.

City officials “expressed gratitude (to Spencer’s staff) for keeping them well informed” of election law changes and the county elections office “made extensive efforts to inform voters of their voting options,” the jury found.

Elections workers were well-trained, and while a technical problem temporarily disrupted in-person voting at voter centers and there were some long lines to vote in person, the county followed the law in conducting the election, the jury found.

While county registrars help fix inaccuracies in the statewide voter registration database, maintaining that database is up to the Secretary of State, the jury’s report read. Complaints about the location of ballot drop-off boxes and the practice of people dropping off other voters’ ballots — a legal practice derisively known in conservative circles as “ballot harvesting” — are beyond the jury’s purview, according to the report.

“The evidence is conclusive that ballots were accurately processed, counted, and reported,” the report read.

“The abundance of evidence leads to the conclusion, Yes, the November 2020 election within Riverside County was administered fairly and impartially and there is no evidence of fraud.’” The report noted that Hestrin’s office, which is responsible for prosecuting voter fraud, has found no evidence of widespread fraud.

The jury offered recommendations to improve future elections, including having the registrar submit a detailed plan on mailing voter guides and vote-by-mail ballots; more videos for voters explaining how ballots are processed and certified; allowing the public to view a livestreamed video of ballot processing and a plan to generate election results faster.

Filed under California,Politics | permalink | July 6, 2021 at 02:42 PM

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