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Forget About Fresno: How One CA County Clerk Stopped Prop 37's Oversight 'Recount'

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Politics and Democracy page and our California News page.

What happened last November in California's Prop 37? Is it really possible that progressive California doesn't want Genetically Engineered Foods to be labeled as such? According to the reported results of that election, that would seem to be the case. But did Californians really vote against such labeling?

Unfortunately, thanks to a lack of overseeable public hand-counts on Election Night, and a gaping weakness in the state's otherwise liberal "recount" law, we're unlikely to ever know for certain.

A weeks-long investigation by The BRAD BLOG into the months-long attempted effort to confirm the results of the Prop 37 ballot initiative last November, serves to highlight not just the weakness in California "recount" law, but also the notion that paper ballots, secretly tallied by optical-scan computers, are just fine, since, as the knee-jerk saying goes, "we can always count the paper ballots by hand afterwards if there are any questions about the results."

The fact is: no we can't. As our investigation reveals, election officials have the ability to stop an attempted "recount" dead in its tracks, by simply charging contestants anything they like for the effort. They are able to price such oversight beyond the means of most citizens, and are even doing so in apparent violation of state election code and regulations, as we found in Fresno County, CA last month during an attempted citizen oversight campaign of Prop 37 results.

But that election was not the only one where an attempt to examine paper ballots to assure accuracy of the secret computer tallies has been stymied by officials in the Golden State. The matter is rife for abuse and continues to frustrate Election Integrity advocates, even as both the CA legislature and the CA Secretary of State have done little to correct the situation...

Democracy 'only available to high-rollers'

California has one of the most liberal election contest laws in the nation. It allows for any "elector" (voter) to challenge the results of any race or initiative on the ballot by filing for a hand count of ballots in any county and any number of precincts they choose, provided they pay the full costs of the hand count. (In the event that the post-election count leads to a race or initiative being overturned, those costs are to be reimbursed to the challenger.)

Sounds great, in theory. Many other states allow such post-election oversight only under certain circumstances, such as automatic "recounts" in the event of very close elections, or by certain individuals defined as having "standing," such as a candidate in the particular race being contested.