California State Sen. Alex Padilla continues to mislead the public about SB 360, his radical election reform bill passed recently by the state legislature along partisan lines, and now waiting for a signature, or veto, from Gov. Jerry Brown.
The bill, as we explained in our detailed exposé last week, would end all federal testing of new e-voting systems in the state of California. The use of only federally-approved voting systems had long been a requirement in the state. Moreover, the measure would grant unprecedented sweeping executive powers to the Sec. of State to approve new voting and tabulation systems for use in real elections without any certification testing at all, even by state auditors.
Coincidentally, Padilla, the bill's sponsor, is also a leading 2014 candidate for Sec. of State in California.
Last week, we explained how Padilla has been cynically selling this bill for many months as necessary in order for jurisdictions like Los Angeles County to own their own non-proprietary voting systems. Who, after all, other than private voting machine companies (and/or folks who'd like to use such systems to game elections), would be against the idea that voting systems should be publicly owned by the jurisdictions which use them to run their own public elections? But that explanation doesn't really tell the full story.
L.A. has been in the process of developing a new, publicly-owned, 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting system for some time. (See a new video of their design concepts, all quite troubling for those of us familiar with new, touch-screen e-voting systems, right here or at the bottom of this article.) The county has said they hope to sell their new system to other counties in the state and across the country. But, what Padilla doesn't mention to lawmakers or to the public while pitching his legislation, is that L.A. already owns their own current voting system and has for many years.
"I've introduced a piece of legislation that doesn't mandate, but allows, at the county level, county governments to own their voting systems," Padilla misleadingly announced on KSRO the day before the bill was finally approved by both chambers of the state legislature earlier this month. He cited L.A. County's development as the reason that counties should be able to own their own voting systems...which, he didn't mention, L.A. already does.
The audio clip of the KSRO interview is featured on Padilla's web page...
You can listen to Padilla's brief, 9/5/2013 interview on KSRO here [appx 4.5 mins]:
Since SB 360's introduction back in February, Padilla has been quoted similarly, and misleadingly, in every press release we've seen issued by his office, touting that "Allowing counties to develop, own and operate voting systems will increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections."
The next, even more misleading part of the oft-used Padilla quote, has been modified only slightly in his press releases since the bill's introduction last February...
"A public voting system will be more transparent, instill public trust and be more accountable than our current systems," Padilla says in his February 26 announcement [PDF] of the legislation.
"A public voting system will be more transparent, instill public trust, be more accountable and provide greater access to all voters," the quote reads in a slightly modified version offered in his September 6 announcement [PDF], issued upon the bill's passage to trumpet that the legislation is now "headed to the Governor’s desk."
Nowhere in any of his announcements or in his publicly advocacy for the bill, however, does he appear to explain that the legislation ends the long-standing requirement for federal testing and certification of new voting and tabulation systems in CA or that the radical rewrite of the state election code would grant unprecedented, sole power to the CA Secretary of State (the office he now seeks) to approve voting systems for use in actual elections without even passing state muster first. Neither does he explain that L.A. County --- the largest voting jurisdiction in the nation, one that has more voters than 36 complete states --- already owns its own voting system.
Though the bill has radically changed since its introduction in February --- becoming far more dangerous that it was in its first iteration --- Padilla's rhetoric advocating for the bill has not.
As we explained last week, the bill, as originally introduced, was just four pages long and would have modified just three sections of the state election code to allow for federal and state funds to be freed up for the development of new, publicly-owned systems. Currently, such monies (hundreds of millions of dollars) are only available to California jurisdictions for systems that have already been tested and certified at the federal level. Padilla's original bill, as written, would have done little more than allow those funds to be used to help pay for the development of new, non-proprietary voting systems (public-ownership of such systems was actually never barred by law). But the original version still required that any new system developed with federal and state funds be federally tested and certified before being tested by state auditors for certified use in CA, as per our long-standing requirements in this state.
The bill that was finally approved by the legislature the week before last, however --- with virtually no debate in either the Assembly or the Senate or among the public --- is now a 39-page radical overhaul of the election code, rewriting, repealing or otherwise amending well over 70 sections, including doing away with the requirement that all e-voting systems be federally tested and certified before being considered for use in the state and allowing for new, uncertified e-voting systems to be used in "pilot programs" for "a legally binding election" with no more than the prior approval of a single Secretary of State.
If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, SB 360, as of January 1, 2014, would allow for a real election --- with the very real votes of actual voters to as guinea pigs, serving as a test bed for completely new electronic voting systems that have no requirements for certification testing at all, either at the federal or state level, before being used in "a legally binding election."
As also noted previously, Padilla's office has declined to respond to any of The BRAD BLOG's multiple queries about this legislation since its introduction earlier this year and even after its passage in the state legislature earlier this month, despite his office having initially invited our input. Our assessment of the dangerous new provisions of this bill have been confirmed by a number of election integrity advocates, groups, and public officials, including a number of them who support the bill despite the risks it poses to our public elections and the dishonest way that it has been presented to lawmakers and the public.
We spoke at some length with L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan about his plans for a new, electronic touch-screen voting and tabulation system, and some of our concerns about SB 360 at the time, earlier this year.
You can contact CA Governor Jerry Brown with your opinion on SB 360 right here. (Choose "SB00360" from the "Please choose your subject" dropdown box, and select Pro or Con on the next screen.)
The disturbing design concepts for a new system being developed by Los Angeles County --- a 100% unverifiable touch-screen system which could be approved for use in a real election without any independent testing whatsoever, under SB 360, should a Secretary of State agree --- can be seen below. The video was quietly released by L.A. County in August. Despite having more than 4 million registered voters in the county, the YouTube video has been viewed just 177 times since being published...