Fresno · Politics

Secretary of State Alex Padilla dodges voter ID questions at TJ Cox town hall

A town hall in Selma to discuss the U.S. Census and California’s Voter’s Choice Act wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for Rep. TJ Cox (D–Fresno) and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Cox and Padilla’s town hall kicked off with an all-Spanish language skit put on by the Sierra Health Foundation about the 2020 census.

After the skit finished, several attendees asked why there was not an English translation, or if there was going to be a skit in English so they could understand what was going on.

They did not rerun the skit in English, but Padilla gave a short explanation calling it an “artistic expression of a lot of basic questions that a lot of people have about the census.”

Watch the Spanish Census Skit

The event, at times, bordered on frenetic as several attendees voiced their concerns to Cox and Padilla about voter fraud and and the upcoming election.

Padilla would ultimately get stuck having to answer questions about election security and implementing voter ID laws.

Amid the buzzing of the crowd, Cox attempted to clear things up and posed his own question to Padilla: “I think this is what you guys may be asking about – how do you ensure that the voters voting are actually eligible to vote, that they’re citizens?”

Padilla refused to directly respond to Cox’s question and did not discuss voter ID, instead taking the opportunity to promote California’s success against voter fraud.

“I know there’s the occasional question or concern about, ‘Oh, what about all that voter fraud? What about all that voter fraud?’ Let’s be very clear,” Padilla said. “There’s been numerous studies, numerous reports, numerous investigations – not just nationally, but here in California – they all show the same thing. Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, which means our current safeguards are working.”

Thus far, one criminal case of voter fraud has emerged in the San Joaquin Valley. Madera County’s District Attorney’s Office charged Monterey County resident April Atilano with 12 felony counts of falsifying voter registration information during the 2018 election.

In the question-and-answer segment of the town hall, several people voiced their displeasure that their questions that they submitted beforehand were not being asked, so they started shouting them out.

One person asked Cox if he intends to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–Vt.) for president. Cox declined to answer the question. He has yet to publicly endorse a candidate for President.

Amid the frequent outbursts that clouded the town hall, Cox and Padilla discussed the new voting system in Fresno County under California Voter’s Choice Act, which was passed in 2016.

Fresno County is replacing the traditional polling places with 53 vote centers. As part of the change, every registered voter in Fresno County is receiving a ballot in the mail. Voters have the option to return the ballot by mail, return it to a ballot drop box in the county or submit it at any of the vote centers.

A select number of vote centers will open on Saturday, Feb. 22. and remain open each day until polls close on March 3.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.