Of all people to be inconvenienced by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV), it had to be one of its most vocal critics—none other than the ex-chair of the Assembly Elections Committee who ordered a scathing audit of the agency just two years prior.
Assemblyman Evan Low got a text at about 3:30pm on Dec. 3 that he’d have to book it 120 miles from Sac to San Jose before the ROV’s 5pm closure to fill out nomination paperwork flubbed by some automated “clerical error.”
The 28th Assembly District representative made it to the ROV HQ in time and demanded to speak the head honcho—the registrar herself, Shannon Bushey—who reportedly apologized for the mix-up and said that, contrary to her staff’s earlier instructions, Low didn’t have to drive all the way to the South Bay after all.
“It was a lively conversation,” Low tells Fly. “She acknowledged the problem. She apologized for it. And I told her basically, ‘Of all people, I’m the one watching you and want you to fix this. But how am I to have confidence in a department where there’s problem after problem, year after year? It’s absolutely inexcusable.’”
If the gaffe was an isolated occurrence, that would be one thing. “But these problems are systemic,” Low says. “These problems are perennial.”
Eric Kurhi, a spokesman for the ROV, says the clerical error that lured Low away from his legislative duties impacted seven state and federal candidates and 19 contenders for local office. While Bushey was unavailable for comment by press time, Kurhi says the ROV “regrets the inconvenience of an additional trip to our office but would like to assure candidates that the error will not affect their candidacy in any capacity.”
Kurhi followed up with another email to add that the ROV “prides itself on customer service, and we engage with all our customers and listen to any concerns in a professional and courteous manner.“
Low says the incident doesn’t give him much faith that the ROV has corrected course since State Auditor Elaine Howle’s 2017 overview of the agency’s litany of blunders from the six preceding years.
During his tenure as Elections Committee chair, he says he heard anecdotally that Santa Clara County’s ROV ranked among the worst in the state and that Howle’s 2017 report helped corroborate as much, showing a reported 26 errors over the course of 30 elections. Some of the missteps included faulty mapping, vendor mistakes and inadequate proofreading—all of which are costly to taxpayers and undermine already tenuous public confidence in US elections.
“I have zero confidence in this registrar,” Low says.
What’s more, he adds, is that he’s pretty disillusioned about the county as a whole for failing to rein in the incompetency.
“Does the county management even care?” he asks. “The bigger story is why is the Board of Supervisors not doing anything when the evidence is so clear and pervasive that something’s wrong here? I mean, where is the accountability?”