McClatchy's America

More voters than eligible adults? Group makes dubious claim about California

Vice President Mike Pence, left, accompanied by Vice-Char Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, speaks during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, July 19, 2017. A conservative legal group has threatened to sue California Secretary of State Alex Padilla over the issue of inactive voters.
Vice President Mike Pence, left, accompanied by Vice-Char Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, speaks during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, July 19, 2017. A conservative legal group has threatened to sue California Secretary of State Alex Padilla over the issue of inactive voters. AP

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has twice rebuffed demands for voter data from a commission created by President Donald Trump to investigate unproven claims of voter fraud last fall. Now a conservative Washington, D.C.-based legal group has threatened to sue the state over what it contends are California counties’ failure to properly maintain lists of inactive voters.

The Aug. 1 letter from Judicial Watch to Padilla alleges that 11 California counties have more registered voters than their estimated populations of citizens eligible to vote. The claim was picked up Breitbart and other news sites and prompted Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, to post on Twitter, “11 counties in California have more total registered voters than citizens over the age of 18. How is this possible?”

Short answer: It’s not.

California voter registration stood at 19.4 million as of February. No California county is anywhere close to having more voters than its estimated number of citizens deemed eligible to vote.

Judicial Watch’s claim rests on its inclusion of “inactive voters” – people who have been removed from active rolls after a mail ballot, voter guide or other official document was returned as undeliverable – usually as a result of moving. They aren’t reflected in turnout tallies or signature-gathering requirements, don’t receive election materials, and are ignored by campaigns.

Inactive voters nevertheless underline Judicial Watch’s math suggesting that Los Angeles County has a registration rate of 112 percent, for example, or Stanislaus County has a registration rate of 102 percent. The letter cites a “failure to maintain accurate, up-to-date voter registration lists.”

Bob Popper, director of Judicial Watch’s election integrity project, said California has failed to report its inactive voter data to the federal government as required by the National Voter Registration Act. Counties should be doing more to cull their inactive voter lists, he said.

“What we identified is a red flag, a sign of smoke,” he said, saying people could be voting multiple times or in more than one state.

In fact, California did report the data. Its inactive voter tally of 5,065,746 at the time of last fall’s election is part of the most recent election administration and voting survey published by the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Dean Logan, the registrar-recorder/county clerk for Los Angeles County, which has about 1.3 million inactive voters, said the lists serve as a voting “fail-safe” for people who have moved and are otherwise eligible to vote. A relative handful of inactive voters showed up last fall, he said.

Judicial Watch, he said, “misrepresents how voting statistics are compiled in California.”

In a statement, Padilla called Judicial Watch’s claims “baseless” and designed to “advance the Trump commission's sham voter fraud agenda.” The threatened lawsuit, he said, “represents the latest in a series of coordinated attacks on the voting rights of American citizens.”

WORTH REPEATING: “It’s a bunch of crap.” – U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, to the Los Angeles Times, dismissing allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

GOING GREEN: Today the California Energy Commission will consider approving a $16 million grant to Shell Oil to develop seven hydrogen fueling stations throughout Northern California. The grant would provide funding for Shell to build stations in Citrus Heights, Sacramento, Berkeley, Walnut Creek and three in San Francisco. The meeting follows a decision in June to award $17 million in grants to 10 other hydrogen stations in Southern California and the Bay Area, and comes as Gov. Jerry Brown has a goal of putting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. The state has a long way to go, but the projects will help expand the hydrogen fueling network in the state and may quell some would-be consumers’ concerns about the availability of charging stations. The energy commission meets at 10 a.m., 1516 9th St.

LOW-INCOME KIDS: A psychology professor from UC Santa Cruz is giving a talk today titled “The ‘Hidden Injuries’ of Childhood Poverty: The Impact of Class Stigma, Stereotypes, and Bias” at the UC Center on K Street. Heather Bullock’s noon lecture will focus on how low-income children are affected by class and provide strategies for enhancing their well-being, according to the UC Center.

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