BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
San Mateo County has more registered voters than it has adults of voting age, according to the conservative legal organization Judicial Watch, which has just reached a settlement in Los Angeles County over the same issue.
But state and San Mateo County officials said Judicial Watch reached the wrong conclusion by adding both the lists of active and inactive voters to get the total number of registered voters.
Counties maintain two lists of voters — regular voters and inactive voters, defined as people who have not voted in two federal elections. Federal elections happen every two years, when people vote for president, U.S. senator or a member of the House. A regular voter goes from the active to inactive list if they fail to vote for four years.
Judicial Watch says the danger in having more registered voters than actual eligible voters is that it opens the door to election fraud. For instance, in a household where a voter dies, that residence might still receive a mail ballot for the dead person. A survivor could be tempted to vote twice — using their own ballot and the dead relative’s ballot.
Judicial Watch claims that there are more than 1.5 million ineligible voters on the rolls in Los Angeles County.
The Los Angeles County settlement requires elections officials to send letters to everyone of the inactive list and ask them if they still wish to remain as registered voters.
San Mateo County figures
In San Mateo County, Judicial Watch claims that in 2016 there were 480,863 adults in San Mateo County, and that there were 532,645 people registered to vote. That means the voter registration list — both active and inactive voters — represents 111% of the population.
However, Attorney General Alex Padilla’s office says that in 2016, there were 503,843 eligible voters in the county and 395,928 were registered to vote. By these numbers, 78.58% of eligible voters in San Mateo County were registered to vote.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit in Los Angeles was supported by a June 2018 federal Supreme Court ruling that requires the removal of inactive voters from registration lists in an Ohio case known as Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute (link to SCOTUS ruling). The high court said the removal is “mandatory.”
But Dean Logan, LA County registrar of voters, told the Los Angeles Times that the inactive list is more of a “fail-safe to make sure that people are not administratively disenfranchised” from their right to vote.
Will group target San Mateo County?
Judicial Watch attorney Robert Popper told the Post yesterday that his organization hasn’t decided whether to take action against San Mateo County or nine other counties in California that have more registered voters than adult residents. Popper said they’re waiting for new census numbers to determine if the county has more voters than residents.
Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County’s assistant chief elections officer, maintained that the office follows both national and state voting laws when cleaning out the voter rolls.
“One of our major responsibilities is to maintain the accuracy of our voter files daily,” Irizarry said.
Voter rolls kept up to date
“Literally thousands of files are updated weekly by staff in cooperation with the Secretary of State’s Voter Registration system,” Irizarry said in an email. “The majority of the activities are for voters who have moved either out or county, out of state or passed away. Voter registration and maintaining the rolls is a very fluid process that changes daily.”