Sanders Supporters Shout at California Sec. of State: "You Cheated!"

Created: 25 July, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

The Sacramento Bee posted a video Monday of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla being drowned out during a state delegation breakfast in Philadelphia with cries of, "You cheated!"

Many Sanders supporters are outraged after a presidential primary that left millions of voters disenfranchised and the DNC email scandal that forced party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign after it was discovered that members of the party leadership intentionally tried to help presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

It took a month for California to count and certify the millions of votes that were cast in the June 7 primary; yet, what has gone largely underreported in the media are the many provisional ballots given to voters -- especially independent voters (called No Party Preference in California) -- and the lingering question over how many of these votes were actually counted.

"Once reserved for emergency situations, provisional ballots were freely handed out across California on June 7 ... they were used by more than one of every five primary voters who showed up at a polling place," writes John Myers in the L.A. Times.

However, as Myers points out, provisional ballots are meant only to be an election fail-safe, reserved for the handful of voters whose eligibility to vote cannot be immediately verified by poll workers. Provisional ballots are placed in a special envelope and then are supposed to be counted after all other votes are counted.

Except that is not how provisional ballots were handled in several counties.

In fact, many poll workers simply handed No Party Preference (NPP) voters a provisional ballot without giving them their full options. Under the semi-closed primary rules, NPP voters have to actively request a ballot for a party that allows their participation. In 2016, this was the Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent parties.

READ MORE: Independent Voters Disenfranchised by California Primary Rules

Additionally, each county gets to decide if and how the ballots are counted, so how poll workers treat these ballots varies from county to county. 

Many voters in California don't know the nuances of the semi-closed presidential primary. Non-presidential primaries in the state are simple. All voters and candidates participate on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters move on to the November election. Presidential primaries are not as simple.

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How many NPP voters knew which presidential ballots they could vote on? How many who were sent the wrong ballot by mail or were simply sent a ballot without any presidential candidates (Nearly 90% of NPP voters) knew they could take their ballot into a polling place on June 7 to request a new presidential ballot? How many of the half a million voters registered with the American Independent Party (AIP) knew their presidential choices would be limited to the AIP ballot?

There are so many nuances to the semi-closed presidential primary that it is understandable how some voters might get confused.

"The secretary of state’s office was intimately aware of the potential for confusion and the need for a robust voter education program," writes Steve Peace, former co-chair of the Independent Voter Project. "I know this because I personally discussed the issue with both the secretary himself and his office. In addition, attorneys for the Independent Voter Project (IVP) presented a comprehensive and simple solution to Padilla and his office."

"The secretary of state ultimately chose not to support the IVP proposal to simply conduct the presidential election in the same manner as all of the other offices, while still preserving the parties’ authority to dictate the terms of their national nominee selection process." - Steve Peace

READ MORE: California Secretary of State’s Office Fails Voters

A lawsuit was even filed ahead of the primary by 3 civil rights attorneys, alleging that various counties weren't doing enough to educate voters of their voting rights. A federal judge rejected the lawsuit on June 1, including a request by the plaintiffs to require poll workers to inform voters of their rights before casting a ballot.

The Independent Voter Project is currently co-sponsoring a new state constitutional amendment, ACA 13, with a bipartisan coalition of California lawmakers (including Assemblymembers Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank), that would create a single nonpartisan presidential ballot so that all California voters have an opportunity to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice, regardless of their political affiliation, in taxpayer-funded presidential primaries.

ACA 13 is currently awaiting consideration in the State Assembly. Along with giving voters more options, IVP argues that the new amendment would alleviate voter confusion and frustration by replacing a system with separate ballots and different rules with a nonpartisan, single-ballot system that puts voters first.

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Photo Source: Sacramento Bee video