Foon Rhee

Some real fixes to safeguard California voters

People line up at an early voting site at UC Irvine on Nov. 1, 2016.
People line up at an early voting site at UC Irvine on Nov. 1, 2016. The Orange County Register/SCNG via AP

A lot of attention is focused on making sure our voting systems are safe from Russian interference, and for good reason. We can never allow a repeat of the meddling that marred the 2016 presidential election and continues to consume Washington politics.

But we also must pay attention to the nuts and bolts of voting. So Californians should be reassured that steps are being taken.


The budget proposed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown includes $134 million to buy new voting equipment. “This is an essential and timely investment in our democracy,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. “Aging voting systems are one of the gravest threats to the integrity of our elections.”

Also this week, Padilla’s office put out a public service ad on the new election system being tested in 2018 by Sacramento and four other counties. Under the Voter’s Choice Act, these counties will move away from those traditional polling places on Election Day. Instead, every voter will get a ballot 28 days before the June 5 primary and Nov. 6 general election, which they can mail, drop off or use to vote in person at regional centers.

Both of these initiatives will strengthen California’s election infrastructure against any future attacks. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats released a report warning of ongoing Russian efforts to undermine democracies in Western Europe, as well as the U.S., and faulting President Donald Trump for ignoring the threat.

Trump, of course, keeps calling the Russian meddling a hoax. And he keeps claiming that supposed massive voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. There’s no evidence that happened. Thank goodness that wild goose chase ended for now when the White House disbanded a presidential commission on voter fraud.

Unfortunately, there are continued efforts to suppress voting. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to give a friendly hearing to lawyers representing the Trump administration and Republicans in Ohio who want to be able to quickly purge voters off the registration rolls.

Instead of making it more difficult to vote, we should be making our democracy more accessible.

In California, at least, new equipment and more ways to vote will help.

Foon Rhee: 916-321-1913, @foonrhee