The voter fraud claims that threaten to undermine trust in the democratic process

People watch a ballot count
Observers from the Election Integrity Project who declined to give their names watch a ballot count.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 14. I’m Justin Ray.

Yesterday I told you 5 things every voter should know about the California recall election. We also have a California Politics newsletter (which you should be subscribed to for times like these).

Today, I want to talk about unfounded voter fraud claims that threaten the recall election and may have an enduring legacy on the state’s democratic process.

Election fraud campaigns


We have noted before that nearly half a dozen California groups are running election fraud campaigns. The state Republican Party has launched its own fraud program, as have leaders of several conservative political action committees. They are competing for the attention and donations of a common conservative base. But one group stands out: poll observer logs from four counties — Orange, San Diego, Fresno and San Luis Obispo — show the vote watchers hail almost exclusively from the Election Integrity Project.

On first pass, the organization appears to be dedicated to the noble cause of ensuring our elections are fair, but the reality is quite different. The organization, which grew out of the tea party movement, says it has trained some 4,000 observers to police the recall. The actual number will probably be much smaller, though some registrars are concerned the group’s claims will discourage people from voting and thus undermine confidence in the election process. (The organization’s officials did not respond to requests to comment for our original story.)

It should be noted that in November, volunteers from the Election Integrity Project caused disruptions at the polls, sometimes intimidating voters, according to election logs, emails and records filed in federal court.

Signature challenges

At ballot processing centers, volunteer observers keep a close eye on those approving the signatures on unopened ballots — and sometimes challenge the validity of the signatures, a practice that is banned in some counties and has been declared illegal by at least one judge.

Secretary of state guidelines for the recall election tell counties that observers are prohibited from challenging voters, but the document is silent on whether that includes the validation of a voter’s signature. A Times investigation has raised questions about the legality of this practice.

Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley told The Times that he has seen observers decide which ballots to challenge based on voter surnames and other demographics that allowed them to guess a voter’s leanings.


The Times wants to hear about your experience voting in person at an L.A. County vote center. Share your thoughts in the form at the link.

Here are some last-minute happenings in the race:

  • Actor and activist Rose McGowan declared her support for conservative radio host Larry Elder and denounced members of the state’s first family — namely Jennifer Siebel Newsom, whose husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom, is the subject of Tuesday’s recall vote. McGowan, an early voice in the #MeToo movement, says Newsom’s wife allegedly tried to bribe her in 2017 to “suppress” McGowan’s allegations against convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Siebel Newsom’s team has said McGowan’s allegations are “a complete fabrication.”
  • President Biden made an evening visit to Long Beach to stump for Newsom. “The decision you’re about to make is going to have a huge impact on California, and it’s going to reverberate around the nation. And, quite frankly, not a joke — around the world,” Biden said. The president’s stop in California caps off the closing campaign act for Newsom, who has touted support from several high-profile Democrats in recent weeks.
  • Though there are few proven instances of wide-scale voter fraud nationwide, the “big lie” of stolen elections is thriving in California. If Newsom wins, will Republicans in the state accept the results? Some recall campaign leaders fear that mistrust could backfire on their cause by discouraging conservatives from casting ballots.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Inland Empire parents of 5 die of COVID-19 weeks apart. Davy Macias, a 37-year-old registered nurse from Yucaipa, succumbed to COVID-19 on Aug. 26, eight days after delivering a baby girl she never got to hold because she was on a ventilator. Her husband Daniel, 39, also was stricken by COVID-19 and spent his last days in a hospital intensive care unit. He died Thursday, leaving behind the couple’s five children, ages 7 and younger. Los Angeles Times


Hollywood says its antiracism push is not a ‘fad.’ Is the industry keeping its promises? When massive protests erupted nationwide in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, the entertainment industry was initially slow to respond. But after a stinging rebuke from CNN anchor Don Lemon, major entertainment companies sprung into action, promising big changes. Has Hollywood made good on its word? Here’s what entertainment companies have and have not done. Los Angeles Times

A person displays Netflix on a tablet.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

A British actress has been missing since last week. Tanya Fear, who has been living in Los Angeles for the last two months, was reported missing by her family Thursday. Friends and fans have been raising awareness of Fear’s disappearance to get more information across social media by using the hashtag, “#FindTanyaFear.” Fear appeared in a 2018 episode of the sci-fi drama “Doctor Who,” according to the BBC. She was also seen in the movie “Kick-Ass 2” and had recently started doing stand-up comedy (Update: She has been found). BBC

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Larry Elder and the danger of the ‘model minority’ candidate. Times columnist Frank Shyong discusses what he sees as the gubernatorial front-runner’s position in the GOP. “Fielding a ‘model minority’ candidate will probably become a common electoral strategy for the largely white Republican Party as it attempts to maintain control of a rapidly diversifying nation,” Shyong says. He then discusses the origins of the term “model minority,” explaining that journalists and academics began applying the term to Asian Americans in the 1960s to explain why Japanese and Chinese Americans were attaining financial success. Los Angeles Times

Protesters disrupt celebration of L.A. City Hall’s new civil rights department. Demonstrators upset over Los Angeles City Hall’s homelessness and policing policies disrupted the celebration of a new city department Monday, drowning out the remarks of Mayor Eric Garcetti and others. More than a dozen protesters chanted, yelled and used a bullhorn to shout expletives at officials who had gathered for the opening of the Civil and Human Rights and Equity Department’s new office across from City Hall. Garcetti left shortly after demonstrators began yelling and other participants finished the news event inside, away from the protesters. Los Angeles Times


Judge makes ruling over Scott Peterson testimony in Kristin Smart case. The hearing in the disappearance and murder of Kristin Smart has taken many odd turns; one of the strangest was the mention of Scott Peterson, who is serving a life sentence after being found guilty in the 2002 murders of his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn child. Defense attorneys attempted to put him up as a suspect in the case, but Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen ruled any testimony related to Peterson is inadmissible. Recordnet

U.S. Capitol Police say they arrested a California man who had multiple knives in his truck, which had a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on it, near the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Officers took note of a Dodge Dakota pickup about midnight Sunday. When they pulled over the vehicle, they noticed the weapons. The driver, identified as 44-year-old Donald Craighead of Oceanside, was arrested. Los Angeles Times


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Wildfires rage in Sequoia National Park, threatening groves of giant trees and forcing closures. A pair of lightning-sparked fires that took hold in rugged terrain in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks exploded over the weekend, forcing evacuations and park closures, while firefighters made gains on the massive Dixie and Caldor fires burning to the north. The Paradise and Colony fires in the national parks, at 1,037 acres with no containment, sent smoke billowing over the popular tourist destination and forced the closure of much of Sequoia National Park while the Kings Canyon side remained open, according to Mark Ruggiero, a public information officer for the national parks. Los Angeles Times


Renting a car remains a pain. On a trip to visit Disneyland with his children, John Jimenez of San Jose reserved a compact car from Dollar Rent a Car at Los Angeles International Airport. What he got when he landed was a headache. Due to a vehicle shortage, the car rental agency offered him a van that he said reeked of cigarettes and marijuana. A global microchip shortage that has cut production of new cars continues to deal a heavy blow to car rental companies, but most of the pain is being felt by travelers who find themselves waiting in long lines, paying nearly double the rates of earlier this year, being denied the vehicle they reserved or ending up with a car with lots of wear and tear. Los Angeles Times

USC fires football coach Clay Helton. Sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote a brutal column after USC’s loss to Stanford on Saturday night calling for USC coach Clay Helton’s removal. Well, that happened. In a message posted to Twitter on Monday, USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn announced his decision to “make a change in the leadership of our football program” and thanked Helton for his time as coach. Los Angeles Times

USC coach Clay Helton talks to his players.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

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Los Angeles: 84. San Diego: 77. San Francisco: Cloudy, 70. San Jose: See this doggo make a friend, 85. Fresno: 99. Sacramento: 97.


Today’s California memory is from Wendy Meier:

We were a boating family, going from Evinrude and Mercury outboards to beautiful Chris Crafts. Everybody waterskiied. By the 1960s we settled in at Lake Tulloch, a reservoir near Sonora. Every summer weekend was spent at “the lake.” Besides skiing and generally running free, we hung out at the marinas. Mitch’s, as we called it, had pinball, nickel candy bars and a juke box. Surf songs were big. The local employer was an asbestos mine, above the lake. At the end of the day, workers came in with white dust on them. I still wonder how they fared.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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