Registered Republicans as well as registered Democrats were victims of the switch, Hestrin said, adding that complaints came from party officials, candidates for office and regular voters.
Using the state’s voter registration website, someone with access to voters’ personal information changed their party affiliations without their knowledge or consent, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Wednesday, July 6.
Hestrin’s comments validate earlier complaints of voter-registration tampering by local Republican Party leaders and others. They also expose a potential flaw in the state’s online voter registration system in which someone can impersonate a voter and change his or her information.
It’s unclear how widespread the problem is or whether it’s a new threat to California elections.
Earlier this month, a spokesman for the California Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections and voter rolls, said no evidence had been found “to suggest any breach of our voter registration database.”
And although Hestrin said his office received “a few dozen complaints,” Riverside County’s registrar of voters has reported just two complaints from voters who said their party affiliation was changed.
There doesn’t appear to be a common bond among the voters who said their party affiliation was changed without their knowledge, Hestrin said.
“However, I understand from talking to many out in various communities that there were others who experienced the same problem who did not report it to law enforcement but simply voted by provisional ballot and then fixed their party affiliation,” Hestrin added.
Complaints from voters and others surfaced before and during California’s June 7 primary election. Only registered Republicans were allowed to vote in the state GOP primary, and many Republican voters in Riverside County said their affiliation was changed to Democrat or something else.
In some cases, voters said they learned of the switch at their polling place. It’s not clear how many of those voters did not cast ballots in the primary or filled out provisional ballots.
The voters in question included Nathan Miller, a Riverside County Community College District trustee and county GOP official who said he looked up his registration online to see his party affiliation was switched to Democrat on April 11. He switched it back.
County GOP Chairman Scott Mann sounded the alarm about the complaints, and Hestrin’s office assigned an investigator to look into the matter.
Hestrin said in some cases, the switch was due to voter confusion. But a preliminary investigation revealed that someone with access to Social Security numbers and other private data went to the state’s voter registration website, pretended to be a voter and changed that voter’s affiliation, the district attorney said.
“This appears to have happened in several of the cases,” he said.
Registered Republicans as well as Democrats complained about party affiliation switches, Hestrin said, adding that complaints came from elected officials, political candidates and regular voters.
Hestrin’s office contacted state officials, only to learn that IP addresses – computers’ digital fingerprints – were not retained by the California voter registration website, he said.
Without IP addresses, the trail has gone cold. “We literally don’t have anywhere to go,” Hestrin said.
Anyone with information about who is behind the registration tampering can email Assistant Chief Investigator Wayne Hoy at email@example.com.
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