The bizarre design of the return envelopes for completed gubernatorial recall election absentee ballots in Los Angeles County is raising red flags that the privacy of votes may be compromised and that opportunities for vote fraud exist.
Twenty million absentee ballots have been mailed to California voters in advance of the September 14 recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA).
“California voters are calling attention to a glaring flaw in the design of absentee ballot envelopes being used in the recall election of California Governor Gavin Newsom,” the American Voter’s Alliance and the Amistad Project said in a joint statement released on Monday.
Polls indicate that it is within the margin of error whether the 50 percent (plus one) majority of “Yes” votes will be reached on the first question on the ballot on whether to keep or reject Newsom as governor. On the second question, 68-year old South Central Los Angeles native Larry Elder, a prominent black conservative talk radio host, currently leads the field as the candidate who will replace Newsom in the event the recall succeeds.
“This LA County voter, who touts her support for of Gov. Gavin Newsom on Instagram, worries a flaw in the way the ballot slides into the mail-in envelope could potentially allow outsiders to see which way she voted,” NBC Los Angeles reported on Tuesday, as it cut away to feature a video posted on Instagram by Amy Cox, who says she is not the person featured in the video, but that the person in the video is a Los Angeles County voter.
In the video the completed absentee ballot showing whether the voter voted “Yes”or “No” on the recall ballot, when folded and placed in the return envelope, aligns so that the “Yes” or “No” vote is visible through one of two circular holes strategically placed in the return envelope.
The unnamed Los Angeles County voter says in the video:
When you fold up your ballot, more than likely, it seems natural, you’re just going to slip this in, but you have to pay attention to these two holes that are in the front of the envelope. You can see, someone from the outside of the mail in ballot, you can see if somebody has voted yes to recall Newsom.
“This is asking for fraud,” the unnamed Los Angeles County voter continues:
So, anybody that has access to this mail in envelope can see who’s voted ‘Yes,’ toss it, do whatever they want to it. They can see your vote from the outside of the envelope. So when you’re doing this, make sure you line up your ballot on the inside of the envelope, so that your vote is not visible,” the unnamed Los Angeles County voter concludes (emphasis added)
The video was posted on Instagram six days ago and now has more than 460,000 views.
As of Wednesday morning, the video is still posted on Instagram, but Instagram has added this warning at the bottom of the video: “Missing context. Independent fact-checkers say information in this post could mislead people.”
The joint statement released by the American Voter’s Alliance and the Amistad Project on Monday said:
Since Cox shared the video on Instagram, the American Voter’s Alliance has identified at least three counties whose absentee ballot envelopes contain the same “window” showing voters’ recall preferences, based on photographic evidence provided by concerned citizens.
“The American Voter’s Alliance is looking into the nonprofits that gave this faulty advice, which could lead to voter intimidation,” said Jacqueline Timmer, founder and director of the American Voter’s Alliance. “We’re also in touch with voters in other counties to see if the same flaw is present elsewhere in the state, and will be demanding explanations from election officials.”
The Los Angeles County Clerk claims this is “an established, recommended practice” that has been in use for years, adding in subsequent public comments that the holes are recommended by civic design consultants. Yet, election integrity experts are questioning what appears to be a serious flaw in the design of ballot envelopes, especially in a state that does not require privacy sleeves.
Each county in California is responsible for the design of their return envelopes. Several counties, like Los Angeles County, include the holes in the return envelopes, while others, like Orange County, do not.
The possibility for fraud exists because the holes that allow someone with access to the completed ballots in Los Angeles County–or any of the counties with holes on the return envelopes– allows those third parties to discard returned absentee ballots that they can see marked “Yes” on the recall question.
“The ballot was designed by the Center for Civic Design, which has helped design ballots across the country. This particular design has been in use since 2018,” NBC Los Angeles noted.
The Center for Civic Design is funded by and partners with a number of left wing groups, including the Democracy Fund, the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, both of which in turn are funded by anti-Trump billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the-founder of eBay.
Breitbart News reported previously on the connection between nonprofits funded by Omidyar and another Silicon Valley billionaire, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:
A lawsuit filed by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in October 2020 alleged that an obscure nonprofit organization operated as part of a larger nonprofit founded and largely funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Pierre Omidyar attempted to recruit local election officials to apply for grants from the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL).
Landry filed the lawsuit on behalf of the State of Louisiana against CTCL, New Venture Fund DBA Center for Secure and Modern Elections, Dawn Maisel Cole, a private individual; and Full Circle Strategies LLC, “to prevent the injection of unregulated private money into the Louisiana election system.”
Notably, Tianna Epps-Johnson, the executive director of the Center for Technology and Civic Life, the controversial nonprofit that received $350 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to “privately fund” election administration in the 2020 presidential election, serves on the board of the Center for Civic Design.
“The [Louisiana] lawsuit was significant in part because it highlighted the role an obscure organization called the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, which describes itself as a “fiscally sponsored project of the New Venture Fund,” played in advancing the efforts of the Mark Zuckerberg-funded CTCL in privately funding the administration of the 2020 election,” Breitbart News reported:
The New Venture Fund, in turn, is part of Democracy Fund, whose website says it is “an independent and nonpartisan, private foundation that confronts deep-rooted challenges in American democracy while defending against new threats.”
Democracy Fund has committed more than $150 million to support a healthy democracy. Established by philanthropist and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar in 2011 and incubated inside Omidyar Network, Democracy Fund launched as an independent foundation in July 2014 and is a part of The Omidyar Group.
Civitas, a well connected public affairs firm founded and staffed by Democrat activists, counts CSME among its clients, but its website is unclear what services it provides the group.
According to the Form 990 Democracy Fund filed for 2019, the organization provided a $275,000 grant to CTCL that year.
The Louisiana lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, but the CTCL subsequently provided no election administration private funding to any local government in Louisiana during the November 2020 election.
Breitbart News asked both the Center for Civic Design and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk two questions about the absentee ballots:
1. Why do the return envelopes include circular holes?
2. Do you agree that the holes present a potential voter fraud problem? If not, why?
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Record/County Clerk responded promptly with this emailed statement:
The design of the ballot return envelope is not new and has been used for several election cycles — and the design is a recommended accessibility practice by civic design consultants. The intent and purpose of the holes are two-fold, to assist with accessibility for low vision voters to locate where to sign the envelope and to ensure no ballots were missed and left in envelopes once our office has received and processed them.
It is important to note that voters have control of how they place their ballot in the envelope and have multiple options for returning their ballots (mail, Ballot Drop Box, or at a Vote Center) to ensure secure and appropriate handling. Additionally, voters can track the status of their returned ballot through Ballot Trax – a free tracking application operated by the Secretary of State that will notify the voter when our office received the ballot and that it will be counted.
As of the time of the publication of this story, the Center for Civic Design has not responded.