She turned up possible voter fraud, one person voting twice, missing signatures, possible voting by nonresidents and other problems that should have disqualified or triggered closer examination of 382 out of the 1,493 voter-return envelopes, keeping them sealed and the ballots inside.
The election turned on 69 votes in favor of allowing the vehicles on City Streets, so Tittle’s findings call into question the election results.
It was the City’s first all-mail-in-ballot election, which straddled the State’s overhaul of the election laws, resulting in a new law requiring all special elections be done by mail. The City’s special election fell under the old law, but even those safeguards were not followed.
It’s too late to recount the ballots. The ballots are anonymous and after separation from the envelope, can’t be matched to a voter, making the before-opening examination of the envelope the only security control in a mail-in-ballot election. The voter-return envelopes were the evidence Tittle relied on in her investigation.
Tittle was an “election observer,” spending 12 hours on Election Day mid-January 2019, watching the handling of the envelopes and ballots. She filed a timely complaint, along with citizen-activist Ron Fenn. The Secretary of State did nothing, detailed in the Sierra County Sun’s article: “SECRETARY OF STATE DIDN’T INVESTIGATE ELECTION COMPLAINTS, TOOK TORC CITY CLERK’S WORD”.
With further evidence laid out in her recent investigation, Tittle is calling for the Secretary of State to confirm her investigation results, as well as the Attorney General’s Office. She wants election law to be enforced where wrongdoing is found. She wants the Secretary of State to ensure local elections are secure.
She has also asked the Secretary of State to use her investigation results into the City’s special election as a case study for tightening up election law. It still has holes, she said, despite the revamping.
The following, broken down by subject, reveals what Tittle found:
State election law says the Secretary of State is to provide the outer and inner envelopes for mail-in elections. The law requires the voter-return envelope have a security flap to cover four pieces of voter information: Name, signature, voter-registration address and the voter’s year of birth (not date, just the year to prevent identity theft).
Under the security flap of the return-voter envelope is the affidavit portion of the envelope.
Pre-printed under the flap is the “Oath of Registered voter.” The voter swears the information provided is true and they are registered to vote in the local election and they will not vote twice or as someone else.
Pre-printed under the flap is also the voter’s registration address and a bar code. The bar code, when scanned, gives the voter’s name and registration address. There are spaces to print one’s name, give one’s year of birth and a signature line.
To violate the voter’s oath is a fourth-degree felony.
State law also says only the voter may “subscribe” the envelope.
The voter-return envelopes were inadequate and didn’t follow the state requirement. There was no space under the security flap for the voter to write, and thereby attest to, their voter-registration address. Instead, the state had the registered-voter address already printed on the envelope.
On the face of the voter-return envelope was the City Clerk’s Office address and in the upper-left corner the usual lines for the return address. Below the return address space was a box to check if the return address was a new address.
Many voters live in two or more places throughout the year, but may only vote in the local election if their Truth or Consequences address is their main address.
Tittle compared the return address to the voter-registration address and the alternative-mailing address (if the voter had two abodes but still voted in TorC) that was on the official “signature voter roster.” If the return address didn’t match either address, she tried to determine if the person had moved and was no longer supposed to be voting in the local election.
Tittle found 22 envelopes with voter-provided addresses that didn’t match the voter-register information, indicating they moved without notifying the County Clerk. Clearly the election judges, who were supposed to make a similar examination, did not do so, or missed a lot of envelopes.
USING SOMEONE ELSE’S RETURN ENVELOPE
In 7 instances, the voter’s spouse used their husband’s or wife’s envelope. No one may vote for another, not even a husband or wife.
Tittle found 2 more instances in which some other person besides the spouse used the envelope.
Again, it appears the election judges didn’t examine the envelopes.
YEAR OF BIRTH
Election law requires the return envelope have a space for the voter’s year of birth. It is a check to ensure the person using the envelope and placing the ballot inside is the intended voter.
Tittle found 308 envelopes with no year.
The election judges should have put them aside and verified the voter’s identity.
Election law requires the voter to sign the return envelope, not only to affirm the voter’s oath, but also as a point of comparison. If there is a question of fraud, the signature can be compared to the signature on voter-registration card.
Tittle found 16 envelopes without signatures, all of which should have been rejected and left unopened by the election judges, the ballots uncounted.
In addition, Tittle spot-checked 33 signatures that were illegible, comparing them with the voter-registration-card signature. She found 6 that did not match.
POSSIBLE VOTER FRAUD
Tittle found 15 return envelopes filled out by a “very distinctive hand,” with mostly illegible or infirm signatures on them, all for residents at the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home or Sierra Hill Assisted Living.
State law says a very close family member or official caregiver may deliver the sealed envelope by hand or by mail to the City Clerk. The voter is supposed to fill out the envelope.
VOTED TWICE, USE OF BLANK ENVELOPES
Tittle found one pre-printed voter-return envelope filled out and signed by a voter. She found the same voter filled out a second return envelope that was not pre-printed.
If a person contacts the City Clerk and claims they did not get their mailed ballot, the City Clerk is supposed to void the mailed ballot, have the person fill out an affidavit swearing they will not vote twice and then issue a provisional ballot, to be checked during the count for a double vote.
Evidently this person was given a blank voter-return envelope with a ballot inside by the City Clerk’s office.
Tittle found one other envelope that was not pre-printed—without a voter-registration address or a bar code—that a voter was given and allowed to vote.
Another envelope had the bar code but no pre-printed voter-registration address.
In an all-mail-in election, only those on the Sierra County “voter signature roster” are mailed envelopes, the addresses based on voter-registration card information. Giving people blank envelopes with ballots inside removes this check. The City Clerk or election judges should have made a notation on the signature roster and the return envelope why blank envelopes were issued, as detailed in State law 1-6-14.