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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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'Ignoring what's wrong has never made anything right'

Uploaded: Sep 15, 2020
For months I have talked to a number of people who said they are zoning out on this election -- they can't stand all the politicizing of every issue, they can't listen to Trump any more, they don't like Biden particularly, so they are not having anything to-do with this election, except bowing out.

"But you can't," I told them. This is the most important election we've had in years. You can't just bow out. Their response: “But it depresses me to watch, they add.

So be depressed, but still pay attention.

A column in the NYT by Margaret Renkl put it more bluntly: “But ignoring what's wrong has never made anything right."

The trouble is that Nov. 3 not a singular event and that things will be over after Election Day. If Trump is elected, we will have four more years of chaos in the White House -- and maybe the end of democracy. If Biden is elected, we’ll have to wait to see how he does in handling the pandemic, the unemployment, climate change, and the insecure economy. One way or the other, the election will change the future of this country.

You say there's nothing you can do now, but there is. Which party controls the Senate will be critical during the next four years.
• Donate money to your favorite candidates in not just one, but also several states.
• Talk to your friends, particularly those who are undecided. They'll be more willing to accept views from someone they trust, rather than an unknown voice on the phone or a newspaper ad.
• Volunteer to work for your favorite candidates, not just one of the two presidential candidates.


Mail-in ballots -- that's a new partisan political predicament this year, ever since President Trump, without any facts backing him up, declared that the mail-in process is exposed to widespread fraud. On Labor Day, he claimed that more than 80 million ballots had been sent out to people who had not requested them.

For years, Californians have registered for mail-in ballots for all future elections. So count us out of your 80M, Trump. And in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the mail-in system has not been thwarted for years.

I talked to Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto resident, to see how he thought our Registrar of Voters office will handle the sending, receiving and counting of the ballots. That office has been uncomfortably late in counting ballots for years, with always some reason for the delay, but this county is usually far behind San Mateo County in tabulating the final results.

Simitian, who has been involved with overseeing the Registrar's Office in his supervisory role, told me the office "is complicated -- there are many different moving parts." He was referring not only to ballot counting, but compiling candidates' names and info for some 800 voting precincts in the county with several races (council, school boards, special districts) in each precinct.

Once the ballots are sent in, there are some problems with signature matches he said, particularly with elderly voters, whose writing looks wobblier than when they first registered. And some younger voters fail to sign the outside of their envelopes causing further difficulties, Simitian said.

When asked why it has taken so long to count the ballots in the past, he said "People are voting later now -- at the last minute", so most of the counting doesn't really start until Election Day.

Since 2018, he said, there have been several improvements in the Registrar's Office -- a larger staff, new voting technology, a new infrastructure system, decentralized voting centers, etc. State law mandates that ballots arriving 17 days after the election (postmarked by election day) must be counted.

But what if there are glitches? Will the supervisors oversee them and fix the problems?

"No," Simitian said, because the people would then perceive an elected body as interfering with votes.

I understand, so election officials should be developing contingency plans to ensure the counting is done quickly and accurately. But should there be goof-ups and malfunctioning of equipment or misplaced ballots, there is apparently no overseeing authority to correct what's going on except the Registrar's Office, where the errors may be occurring. And that worries me, given past history.

What I've learned, given the postal problems and the new untried equipment at the Registrar's Office, this year we must mail in our ballot early, like the first two weeks of Octoberr, so that our votes can be counted.

It's obvious: This is a critical election, so make sure to vote.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Exercise your right to vote., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 16, 2020 at 11:31 am

Exercise your right to vote. is a registered user.

Good grief. We never get perfect options. Candidates are people. They are ALWAYS imperfect. This has always been so.

We have the right to choose. Pay attention. Make an informed choice--even it feels to you like picking the lesser of two evils. This is not new. I can't think of any election in my 42 years of voting when I felt my choices were perfect.

Do we really want another four years of this? We, the people, are the government. Democracy depends on our active participation.

Please do not fail to exercise your right to vote.

Posted by Vote and bring your friends, too!, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 16, 2020 at 11:42 am

Vote and bring your friends, too! is a registered user.

I am confused as to how we can still possibly have any undecided voters at this point. I would imagine its perfectly clear to everyone who has been living in US in the past 4 years - they either see more financial benefits to the top 5% of population, as well as big breaks for corporations as far as their taxes are concerned outweigh all other aspects of people's lives; or they will vote Democrat.
There absolutely needs to be change in the Senate; I can name a few senators who need to go, now. Mitch McConnell being one of them - so tell everyone who is in KY about Amy McGrath and her impressive past and plans for the future of our country.
Even if we do flip the Senate though, if Biden is president, he will have an insane amount of confrontation and interference. If we have any hope of remaining a democratic country and gain back the lost respect from the rest of the world, we will need to make a lot of changes to our processes.
So... please vote, everyone. This will be the first time in a very long time that I will be voting by mail - I would vote by smoke signals if I had to.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "... Trump, without any facts backing him up, declared that the mail-in process is exposed to widespread fraud."

False. A Federal commission was formed after the 2000 Bush v Gore controversies and was tasked with reporting on how to improve the integrity of the election process. They identified many vulnerabilities in mail-in voting. A 2012 New York Times investigation similarly found substantial vulnerabilities. Until very recently, the Democratic Party's position on Voter-ID wasn't needed because the problem with vote fraud was with mail-in ballots, not in-person voting. Along with voting-the-graveyard, mail-in fraud has been a major concern for as long as I can remember (back to the 1960s).

Mail-in voting in the recent primaries demonstrated that those vulnerabilities are very real. For example, in Patterson NJ, a state judge invalidated an election because of massive mail-in voting fraud: 20% of the ballots were disqualified and four people have been criminally charged. In New York, a similarly high percentage of the ballots were disqualified. I haven't seen an attempted break-down. How many were likely voter errors; how many were potentially fraudulent ballots; how many were fraudulently disqualified; how many were wrongly disqualified because of bad processes?

Regardless, would you trust election results where 20% of the ballots were disqualified? 10%? Many elections are decided by less than 1% of the vote. Would you trust an election where the number of disqualified ballots were many, many times the margin of victory??

Note that Santa Clara County is not representative of the handling of mail-in ballots: It has been building up its capabilities over many many years whereas many jurisdictions are expected to do the same in a few months.

Note also California's recent legislation has created large vulnerabilities in mail-in voting. First, the 17-day grace period for mail-in ballots postmarked by election day. Most/all the ballots will be counted within 10 days, so anyone trying to rig the election would know how many "late-arriving" votes would be needed. Postmarks are reportedly not hard to forge; the ballots can be postmarked from anywhere, not just locally; USPS chain-of-custody for First-class mail is inadequate to non-existent.

Second, in 2016, California legalized "vote harvesting". You can now have a single person drop off more ballots than the expected margin of victory in various local elections.

Increasingly there are widespread concerns that the upcoming national election will have so many obvious problems in the vote count that many people may not see it as legitimate regardless of who wins.

I wrote about this and additional concerns in my blog of Sept 8 (Web Link

Posted by James Thurber, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 16, 2020 at 1:25 pm

James Thurber is a registered user.

As a retired public school teacher I insisted that my students learned (really learned) civics and, especially, the Constitution. My 4th and 7th graders could recite much of the Constitution and were able to discuss what various amendments meant, in particular the 1st, 4th and 5th.

They also knew the "stated" roll of the three branches of our Federal government.

I tried to be fair with all my students but I did threaten them - once. The only threat I conveyed to all my students, regardless of age, gender, background, was this: "Voting is your MOST important civic duty. If you can vote, and choose not to, when I die I'm coming back to haunt you."

If my former students ever hear chains rattling in the hallway at midnight, accompanied by ghosty sounds now they'll know (KNOW) why.

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