A photo of Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco addressing the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco addresses the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. (Photo by Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

More than a dozen residents spoke at last week’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting raising concerns about election integrity.

“We have no control over the rest of the world, but we have Riverside, and I’m telling you right now, consider this like Paul Revere,” Colleen Strong said at the Feb. 27 meeting. “The citizens are coming, and we’re coming for you guys, because we know we have no power out there, but we have power here, and we’re going to continue to use it.”

During the meeting’s public comment period, residents brought forward concerns about voter registration, duplicate ballots, the Dominion voting machines used by the county and discrepancies in the number of ballots processed among other issues.

“I’m not asking any more,” Kari Fobar, who stated she received two identical ballots in the mail last month, said. “I’m demanding that you guys do something about registration, about voting and ballots, because if we don’t have a fair and free election, we have nothing.”

A number of the speakers also requested a public meeting with the supervisors, Registrar of Voters Art Tinoco and Sheriff Chad Bianco to discuss their concerns in an open forum where speakers were not limited to two minutes.

“This board’s actions make no sense,” Taryn Cagliero said. “We demand a special public session including Sheriff Biano and Art Tinoco so that this can be discussed with the voting public. We’re just concerned, and we hope that you will listen to us in this unfortunate time we’re in right now.”

However, once the public comment period was over and the supervisors moved onto an item where Tinoco was able to speak to some of the speakers’ concerns regarding the election, none of them were in the room to engage in the conversation.

“I would like to point out today for the benefit of the folks who are watching at home, both of them, that we had this huge audience here, attendees to speak on voter registration issues, the registrar of voters, voter laws,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “Now that we’re on an agendized item about that very issue, there is nobody left in the room that spoke on that issue.

“Nobody’s here to actually have the discussion, and the give and take with you or with us on an agendized item about how we’re going to conduct this next election next week,” he continued. “So, we get beat up, it’s part of the job, but when the opportunity comes for an actual dialogue and discussion, it’s crickets in the room.”

Supervisor Karen Spiegel also lamented the fact that those who raised concerns did not stay to hear the response and further noted that misinformation about elections is a big concern for the county.

“One of our biggest challenges is that bad information gets out and circulated,” she said. “You’ve heard the repetition. People have a script that they’re all going from as they talk to us.”

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In hopes of getting accurate information to answer some of the public’s questions, TN News spoke with Tinoco after the meeting. The following is a transcript of that conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

TN News: People are really concerned about these voting machines at the polling locations being connected to the internet or being susceptible to outside influence. What is the registrar’s office doing to ensure that doesn’t happen, and what is something that you think people need to know about how these machines actually work?

Art Tinoco: The voting system is not connected to the internet whatsoever, completely false that it’s connected to the internet. The only item that is connected to a safe network that the county has is five laptops to be able to look up voters, but the voting system itself is completely not connected.

RR: When people cast their votes, how does that information on those voting machines get from those voting machines to tabulation?

AT: They have to be physically transported to our office. So, if the voter chooses to just drop it in the ballot box, then those ballots will be transported physically by two team members to our office. If the voter chooses to scan their ballot, that ballot is actually tabulated and then an SD card is extracted on election night after the polls close and transported physically to our office again to read.

RR: There were also questions about ballot discrepancies between the numbers that USPS was reporting and the number that the ROV was reporting, specifically for the 2022 election. Can you explain some of that discrepancy?

AT: Unfortunately I have no control over the USPS and how they do things. We are under the understanding from the USPS that they weigh mail at the same time that they also do a piece by piece count. So again, I really can’t speak for what the post office does other than [that] we would not rely on those mechanisms or documents to be able to reconcile our various documents and ballot count.

RR: Can you talk a little bit to the duplicate ballots that people are getting and how the ROV is making sure that those are not being cast? And, if there is somebody who has a ballot mailed to them, and they go vote in person, how is the ROV, making sure that duplicate ballots are not being?

AT: Every voter’s experience will be unique. So it all depends. That voter may be asked at the DMV to re-register without the voter realizing because you have to opt out if you want to do that, and so if that’s the case, then the voter very much may have re-registered and that will again send out a ballot to the voter. 

There are circumstances, this primary election, where the voter may be a no party preference voter where they have the option of requesting up to three different ballots from the three excellent excuse me, up to three different parties listed that are accepting crossover voting. In that case, of course, if the voter has no party preference, and they want one of those selections in order to get the presidential contest on it, they’re going to request another ballot. 

Now what we are encouraging the voting public to do is if they don’t want to keep that ballot, they can turn it into a vote center and our election officers are trained to place on the ballots “spoiled,” or “do not count.” so that way it doesn’t get counted. Again, the first ballot in is the first ballot that’s credited in the system, any other ballots that come in, our system will warn us and then those will be void.

RR: What happens if somebody accidentally does vote twice?

AT: If they do vote twice, which I encourage you not to, we will be sending those to the district attorney’s office for further investigation.

RR: Is there anything else you want to add about this primary election?

AT: I just want voters to go out there and feel confident that the voting system is secure. It’s gone through a lot of testing at a national level [and] at a state level.

Those still wishing to vote can do so by mailing, drop-off box or in person. More information about where and how to vote in tomorrow’s primary election can be found here on the ROV’s website.

TN News is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet providing Riverside County with high-quality journalism free of charge. We’re able to do this because of the generous donations of supporters like you!

Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.

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