At its March 29 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved creating an election advisory committee. The committee, composed almost entirely of citizens, is intended “… to provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, Executive Office, and Registrar of Voters on improvements to the electoral process to ensure voter confidence and public trust in how the County conducts elections,” according to the recommendation Rebecca Spencer, the county Registrar of Voters, and Juan C. Perez, the county chief executive officer, presented.
Supervisor Kevin Jeffries (District 1) initially brought this idea forward in March 2020 and revived it in May 2021. He stressed that the committee’s mission was not oversight or management of elections.
“There has been a terrible mistake made with the concept of what this committee is. It’s an advisory committee, not oversight,” he stated. While some states and other counties have had concerns and claims of voting improprieties and illegalities, Riverside County has been vigilant in enforcing election laws.
After the 2016 election, the District Attorney’s Office investigated more than 70 claims of illegal voting, which resulted in only one indictment after a year of investigation.
After the 2020 election, a Riverside County grand jury found votes were counted accurately and fairly with no evidence of election fraud.
Addressing the committee’s composition, Jeffries said, “It cannot be hijacked. It gives no official direction to the Registrar of Voters. It is to improve communication and understanding of state and federal election laws. It is a misconception to think the committee can make dramatic changes in California Election laws.”
The proposed composition of the committee is a chairperson the supervisors’ chair nominates, designees from the Riverside County Democratic and Riverside County Republican parties, the third party that received the most votes in the previous presidential election, the League of Women Voters-Riverside, a representative from the local Latino/Hispanic nonpartisan community organization and an ex-officio (nonvoting) representative from the executive office.
Committee members will be appointed to a two-year term and serve no more than two consecutive two-year terms.
Supervisor Chuck Washington (District 3), who made the motion to approve the item, said he saw “… no reason to do anything different than what is recommended here.”
He also stressed that the committee has “… no intent for political activity, rather it is advisory to the board regarding elections.”
Of the public speakers, all favored the idea of the committee, but several were concerned about representation from the nonpartisan groups. While the group’s ideology or purpose may be nonpartisan, individual members might exert more partisan views.
However, Washington and others felt the League of Women Voters has a long history of nonpartisanship. Supervisor Karen Spiegel (District 2) asked to add a representative of the California Election Integrity Project. None of the other supervisors seconded her recommendation, so she agreed to address it in the future.
The proposal makes it clear that the committee is a Brown Act body and will comply with open meeting laws. A very tentative meeting schedule also was proposed with five meetings to be held in 2022. Two sessions would occur before the June 7 primary and three after.