Atascadero resident Dane Sensor waved two ballots in the air as he spoke to the SLO County Board of Supervisors Nov. 1. He said he was planning on voting by mail, but decided not to.
“I’m even afraid to do that after reading the story in New York where a postal worker actually destroyed ballots,” Sensor said.
- FILE PHOTO
- A ‘YUGE’ RISK?: As voters prepare to head to the polls, Donald Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election surface in SLO County.
Sensor was likely referring to a post by user named @Randygdub on Twitter claiming to be a postal worker who was ripping up mail-in ballots for Republican Party nominee Donald Trump. The Tweet was quickly exposed as a joke and debunked by news outlets like The Washington Post, but not before it was picked up and disseminated as fact by conservative outlets like the Drudge Report, Breitbart News, and radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Amid falling polling numbers following the final presidential debate, Trump continued to claim that the electoral process would be “rigged” against him, and warned his supporters of supposed widespread voter fraud he believes will take place during the election to keep him from winning the presidency.
Despite little evidence of such large-scale fraud occurring, it appears that Trump’s “rigged” rhetoric has made its way to SLO County. Sensor said he was also worried about “illegal immigrants” canceling out his vote and asked for reassurances from SLO County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong, Sheriff Ian Parkinson, and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold that such fraud wouldn’t occur in SLO County.
“My concern is, we’ve seen that voter fraud already preempting this election,” Sensor told the board. “There’s voter fraud. Let’s not pretend that there is not.”
Sensor wasn’t the only one at the meeting concerned about voting in SLO County. Paso Robles resident Wayne Montgomery raised concerns over Trump’s rhetoric, and his call for supporters to monitor polling places on Election Day.
“What I have here is quotes from the candidate saying his followers should go to the polling places and watch the polling places, … if you know what I mean. Wink, wink,” Montgomery said, adding that he believed Trump was encouraging his supporters to commit “illegal acts.”
The concerns occur as SLO County experiences historic voter registration numbers, with more than 168,000 voters registering to participate in the election. Speaking to the supervisors at the meeting, Gong said he was aware of concerns, but was confident in the security of the voting process in SLO County.
“I know there are concerns for individuals about that, but our process is transparent,” he said. “I know it’s a big process that is hard to fathom, but I invite members of the public to observe, and I’m happy to walk them through that process.”
Any potential fraud, he said, would be reported to the SLO County District Attorney’s Office.
In his comments, Gong also said that citizens are legally allowed to observe the elections and voting process, but were barred from interfering or obstructing that process.
“We also ask that the public respect the sanctity of the polling place,” he said.
Sheriff Parkinson told the board that his department has planned for election night as they always do, but acknowledged that this election was “more tense than most.”
“We do have a plan,” Parkinson said. “It’s not a plan that we publicize, other than we are well aware of the situation.”
Supervisor Arnold expressed confidence in in both Gong and Parkinson.
“I know they know how best to do their jobs, and I’m going to leave it at that,” Arnold said.