Ryan crit­i­cism of Cal­i­for­nia elec­tions is un­jus­ti­fied

The Mercury News Weekend - - OPINION - By Marc Ber­man Marc Ber­man, D-Palo Alto, rep­re­sents Dis­trict 24 in the Cal­i­for­nia Assem­bly.

Out­go­ing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan re­cently cast doubt on Cal­i­for­nia’s elec­tion re­sults, call­ing our state’s elec­tion sys­tem “bizarre” and say­ing that it “just de­fies logic” to him.

As chair of the state Assem­bly com­mit­tee that over­sees our elec­tions, I wanted to take this op­por­tu­nity to en­lighten the Wis­con­sin con­gress­man. The re­sults of the Nov. 6 elec­tion are what hap­pens when a state takes the power away from politi­cians and puts it in the hands of the peo­ple, where it be­longs, by mak­ing it eas­ier to vote and en­sur­ing that all votes are counted.

Cal­i­for­nia has been a leader in re­form­ing how our politi­cians get elected, be­com­ing one of the first states in the coun­try to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent cit­i­zens re­dis­trict­ing com­mis­sion to draw po­lit­i­cal dis­tricts for state and fed­eral of­fice. This means that more dis­tricts are com­pet­i­tive be­tween Democrats and Repub­li­cans, and that elected of­fi­cials are ac­tu­ally held ac­count­able by their con­stituents for the votes that they make.

When politi­cians draw up their own dis­tricts, as they do in Wis­con­sin, they prac­ti­cally guar­an­tee their own po­lit­i­cal sur­vival no mat­ter what they do in of­fice. In Cal­i­for­nia, ac­tions have con­se­quences, and vot­ers have the power to vote out rep­re­sen­ta­tives who aren’t ac­tu­ally rep­re­sent­ing their dis­tricts.

While other states like Ge­or­gia and Flor­ida are find­ing cre­ative new ways to stop peo­ple from vot­ing, Cal­i­for­nia has been at the fore­front of ex­pand­ing vot­ing rights. And not just for vot­ers who look or think a cer­tain way — but for all vot­ers, re­gard­less of race or po­lit­i­cal party.

In Cal­i­for­nia, any voter can sign up to re­ceive a vote-by-mail bal­lot, without need­ing a rea­son. Vote-by-mail bal­lots that are mailed by Elec­tion Day are counted as long as they are re­ceived three days af­ter the elec­tion, and vot­ers can re­turn their com­pleted vote-by-mail bal­lots to a polling place any­where in the state.

In ad­di­tion, el­i­gi­ble Cal­i­for­ni­ans who need to reg­is­ter to vote — or up­date their reg­is­tra­tion — can do so on Elec­tion Day. Rather than turn­ing el­i­gi­ble vot­ers away from polling places without giv­ing them the chance to vote, as is the case in Wis­con­sin, Cal­i­for­nia makes ex­ten­sive use of pro­vi­sional bal- lots. This elec­tion cy­cle, more than 1 mil­lion Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots. While those bal­lots need to be thor­oughly re­searched, and the vot­ers’ el­i­gi­bil­ity con­firmed, be­tween 85 per­cent and 90 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia’s pro­vi­sional bal­lots typ­i­cally are counted.

Cal­i­for­nia also pri­or­i­tizes the se­cu­rity and ac­cu­racy of our elec­tions. If we learned any­thing from the 2016 elec­tion, it’s that vot­ers’ con­fi­dence in elec­tion re­sults will suf­fer if our elec­tions are not se­cure. That’s why Cal­i­for­nia banned the use of pa­per­less vot­ing sys­tems more than a decade ago. While pa­per­less elec­tronic sys­tems may pro­duce faster elec­tion re­sults, they lack the trans­parency and au­ditabil­ity that is needed to main­tain con­fi­dence in our elec­tion out­comes.

These voter-fo­cused poli­cies helped fuel the high­est turnout in a midterm elec­tion in Cal­i­for­nia since 1982, and demon­strate what elec­tions look like when a state makes it eas­ier for vot­ers to par­tic­i­pate.

And yes — one re­sult of these pro-voter poli­cies is that it can take a lit­tle longer to count bal­lots. Part of the rea­son that Cal­i­for­nia’s vote count takes as long as it does is be­cause the state is big — re­ally big. Los An­ge­les County alone has nearly 5.3 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers, 2 mil­lion more than the to­tal num­ber of vot­ers in Ryan’s en­tire home state of Wis­con­sin.

But isn’t the in­tegrity of our elec­tions worth tak­ing a few ex­tra days? I think so.

Cal­i­for­nia elec­tion of­fi­cials should be praised for their ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing the ac­cu­racy and in­tegrity of Cal­i­for­nia’s elec­tion re­sults, not dis­par­aged by un­in­formed par­ti­sans who dis­agree with the choices made by Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers.


House Speaker Paul Ryan has no busi­ness crit­i­ciz­ing Cal­i­for­nia elec­tions.

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