State election official: Supervisors' voter fraud committee can't do much to prevent multiple registrations at same address

August 08, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors was told Tuesday there's not much a voter fraud committee can do when it comes to preventing lots of people from registering to vote at the same address.

If the people are related and their intention is to return to a given domicile, they retain the right to vote from that location.

"We can't regulate the intention," said Richard Ciaramella, chief investigator with the secretary of state's elections division. "We can't bring that to court."

Ciaramella appeared before the board to discuss voter fraud.

The issue was brought up by District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca, who suggested the board form a committee to find ways to stop fraudulent voting because of what he said appeared to be an excessive number of registered voters at individual addresses and alleged voter registration and absentee ballot irregularities during the last election.


"We came across many irregularities," Maruca said, adding that one was that 10 people were registered to vote at the same address. "I think we've got to get proactive on this issue now."

After hearing what Ciaramella had to say, however, Maruca said the picture was "very bleak."

Essentially, Ciaramella said the state's position is that people have the right to vote and grants them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to voting, including the right to register at a motel or retain one's registration at home while away at school.

Ciaramella gave the example of 13 people legally registered to vote at the same address, all related by family.

"You can see where registration laws can get funny," he said.

Ciaramella said the best that can be done by state investigators is to follow up on candidates and their irregularities. He also said a county committee tasked with investigating voter fraud would likely impress upon people the importance of voting legally. He added voter education is a good thing.

"The more the community is informed, the better the chance we have of ferreting out voter fraud," Ciaramella said.

Meanwhile, Dolores Provencio, the county's top elections official, said she follows all state guidelines when it comes to updating voter rolls. She said with continued budgetary support from the Board of Supervisors, she can continue to do so.

Maruca said the board will discuss the issue further at Monday's committee of the whole meeting.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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