California Police Find 300 Absentee Ballots for Recall Election in Felon’s Car

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Leading contender in the California Recall Election, Larry Elder, speaks at the 2016 FreedomFest at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. A felon was found with 300 unopened absentee ballots for the California Recall Election in Torrance, a concerning similarity to a ballot harvesting scandal in Minnesota’s Somali-American community that benefitted Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Nov. 3, 2020 Federal Election.
Leading contender in the California Recall Election, Larry Elder, speaks at the 2016 FreedomFest at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. A felon was found with 300 unopened absentee ballots for the California Recall Election in Torrance, a concerning similarity to a ballot harvesting scandal in Minnesota’s Somali-American community that benefitted Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Nov. 3, 2020 Federal Election. (Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

A felon in Torrance, California was found by police sleeping in his car in a convenience store parking lot along with guns, drugs, and 300 mail-in ballots for the Sept. 14 California recall election of Governor Gavin Newsome.

In an August 23 report by ABC affiliate KABC, Torrance police made the discovery on the night of August 16 when they attended a call complaining of a man sleeping in his car in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven, “Inside the vehicle, the officers found a loaded handgun, some narcotics, and then they found a bunch of mail and what turned out to be over 300 election ballots in the backseat of the vehicle,” Sergeant Mark Ponegalek told the outlet

Ponegalek said the ballots appeared to be in a box but were also strewn about in the back seat of the man’s car, who was discovered to be a felon.

Photograph of several hundred California Recall Election absentee ballots found in the felon’s car.
Photograph of several hundred California Recall Election absentee ballots found in the felon’s car. (Image: Torrance Police Department)

Police said they discovered firearms, Xanax, methamphetamine, stolen credit cards, and stolen driver’s licenses along with the ballots.

KABC said, “The man was taken into custody, but has since been released on his own recognizance. Police still don’t know how he obtained the ballots and what his intent was.”

Ponegalek said the election ballots were unopened and untampered with, estimating the number at slightly more than 300, mostly from Lawndale and Compton. 

Both the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office and police say they believe the case is not an instance of election fraud because other stolen mail was found in the man’s car. 

The Minnesota Somali-American community ballot harvesting scandal

In September of 2020 shortly before the Nov. 3 President Election, investigative journalist team Project Veritas broke a story of ballot harvesting for Democrat Ilhan Omar’s campaign from a whistleblower in Minnesota’s Somali-American community. 

One of the pieces of evidence the whistleblower provided was a Snapchat of a Somali man named Liban Mohamed who openly worshiped money in a Snap sent to community followers as he bragged about 300 mail-in ballots he had collected from his own local ethnic community, “Money is everything. Money is the King in this world. If you ain’t got money, you should not be here period,” said Mohamed.

Boasting while he spoke in the Somali language, Mohamed showed the pile of ballots strewn about on the dashboard of his vehicle as he said, “All these here are absentee ballots. Can’t you see? Look at all these, my car is full. My car is full.”

Minnesota law forbids an individual from being in possession of more than three absentee ballots.

In a second video Project Veritas caught Mohamed on camera paying a man from the Somali community $200 cash in exchange for his completed ballot.

After the videos were released to the public, New York Times published several articles, both online and in print, claiming Veritas was running a “Coordinated Disinformation Campaign.” Project Veritas sued NYT for defamation. 

In March, New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood threw a Motion to Dismiss filed by NYT out, stating in his ruling, “In part, Defendants argue that their statements describing Veritas’ Video as ‘deceptive,’ ‘false,’ and ‘without evidence’ were mere opinion incapable of being judged true or false.”

Mail-in ballot integrity

On August 19, former Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell generated major concerns about the integrity of the Sept. 14 recall election when he posted a tweet featuring a TikTok video where a woman demonstrated two holes placed on the envelope of her absentee ballot that would reveal to mail carriers and election workers whether the voter had selected Yes or No for the question of whether Newsom should be recalled. 

Grenell said, “@GavinNewsom needs to be asked if his team did this on purpose. This is cheating.”

In California’s recall election, voters first must vote Yes or No to determine by majority whether Newsom should be recalled. If they vote Yes, they must select the candidate they wish to see elected. Front-running Conservative candidate Larry Elder is notably placed on the back of the ballot. 

The woman demonstrates in her video how any regular voter who fills out “Yes” to the recall question and places the ballot in its envelope in a normal fashion based on the pre-folding of the absentee ballot will have their choice made clearly visible through two holes that are pre-punched into the envelope. 

“You can see if someone, from the outside of the mail-in ballot, you can see if somebody has voted yes to recall Newsom. This is very sketchy and irresponsible in my opinion, but this is asking for fraud,” says the woman in the video during her demonstration.

The Los Angeles County Clerk defended the envelope design on Twitter, stating, “This has been part of the envelope design for years. The holes serve both an accessibility purpose and a quality assurance purpose after the fact to validate no voted ballots are left unprocessed; an established, recommended practice.”

Grenell challenged the Clerk, “Assurance that someone can see who voted YES to recall @GavinNewsom so someone can toss that ballot?”

The Clerk’s office told Fox News in an additional statement that the holes were recommended by “civic design consultants” in order to, “Assist with accessibility for low vision voters to locate where to sign the envelope and to ensure no ballots were missed and left in envelopes once our office has received and processed them.”

Fox also said they examined an absentee ballot from San Luis Obispo County and “did not see the same design” while managing editor for Red State, Jennifer Van Laar, said on Twitter that one of her staffers in LA County “said their ballot isn’t like that.”

The discrepancy between envelope designs harkens back to a major issue of absentee ballot integrity uncovered in Georgia during the Nov. 3 Presidential Election. 

On Dec. 30, 2020, Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, an inventor with 200 patents in the field of machine readable code, such as QR codes, demonstrated during a presentation to the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Elections that absentee ballots provided to different precincts in Fulton County had different printed features that would affect how automated voting machines would scan and tabulate the votes. 

In some cases, ballots sent to one precinct had a barcode in the top right that was designed to verify specific details in order to cross check against voter signatures. In others, this barcode was missing. More concerningly, Pulitzer demonstrated the “registration,” or the alignment, of the magnetic ink guidance lines surrounding the ballot that tell automated tabulators where to look for a voter’s inputs were blurred or out of alignment on ballots sent to some precincts, but perfect in others.

The magnetic ink on the mail-in ballots works on the same principle as the special characters surrounding the account number of the bottom of a personal or business check. If the magnetic ink is missing or out of alignment, the check will not scan and will have to be adjudicated by a human being.

In his testimony, Pulitzer said scanning a ballot was, “As simple as scanning a loaf of bread at the grocery store.”

Criticizing the quality standards he discovered in his analysis, Pulitzer continued, “What’s sad about this is we’re not even performing at standards we expect out of grocery stores. We’re not even performing at standards that you would accept from your online purchase. When you fill that shopping cart, you expect that shopping cart to be exactly what you chose. If you had a problem with Amazon because they shipped you 20 things you don’t need but still charged you, you would be on the phone to Amazon complaining. They would have to audit it, figure it out, and make it right.”

“But we don’t do this in elections? We play hide and seek with documents? We don’t turn documents over?” he questioned rhetorically.

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.