Months following the tense presidential race between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, elections and voting continue to make headlines, and now Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) has election matters on his agenda.
On Tuesday, Garcia announced the creation of the Election Integrity Caucus, co-chaired with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), which, according to Garcia’s website, will “proactively educate and inform the American public about issues related to election security and activity, drive commonsense policy solutions to restore faith in the democratic process, and improve the administration of elections. The caucus will ensure Americans in every state and territory have confidence in free, fair, accurate, and transparent elections.”
The announcement cites Garcia’s narrow 333-vote victory over former Assemblywoman Christy Smith last November and the month-long certification process, slamming “California’s failed election policies, such as no I.D. required to vote, same day voter registration and ballot harvesting have eroded the public’s trust in the election process.”
“Americans deserve to trust our election process – but unfortunately far too many Americans have concerns regarding election integrity. Progressives in D.C. are attempting to model federal election law after California’s current system,” said Garcia in the announcement. “In California, we know firsthand how harmful ballot harvesting, no-excuse mail-in ballot voting, and lack of voter roll integrity can be to free and fair elections…The integrity of our elections is crucial to maintaining the sanctity of our democracy.”
Garcia has previously attacked mail-in voting and called into question the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election. In January, he joined other Republicans who called for some states’ votes to be rejected and parroted the popular conservative talking points of faulty voting systems, fraudulent votes and tampering with state election laws. Those claims have since been debunked.
During a recent interview with “The Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast in which she announced her third attempt to run against Garcia in 2022, Smith praised poll workers and county election officials as diligent and took their work seriously following last year’s election. She noted lawyers from her and Garcia’s campaigns working with Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to legally verify votes when needed.
“There is so much effort placed on every ballot being valued and counted…and when there are questions it’s set aside, and if that question can’t be resolved, that ballot isn’t counted,” Smith said.
Local activist Charles Vignola said he believes Garcia’s efforts regarding the caucus to be disingenuous “pandering,” a way to remain in the good graces of his voter base who still believe that the 2020 election was stolen. According to Vignola, given that the caucus is not bipartisan and instead run by two Republicans, Garcia’s strategy is not about whether his efforts are effective or trustworthy, it is simply a chance to bolster his credentials.
“It’s awfully ironic that a guy who voted on Jan. 6 to disenfranchise eight million voters in Arizona and Pennsylvania is suddenly worried about election integrity, even after every judge across the country, many of whom were Republicans, said there was no widespread voter fraud,” Vignola said. “If right wing extremists storming the U.S. Capitol, threatening the lives of members of Congress and the vice president and trying to overturn the election results weren’t enough to make Garcia second guess giving oxygen to this dangerous conspiracy, then he’s not going to learn his election. He’s just decided, ‘this is good politics for me,’and welding himself to those conspiracies.”
Vignola also commented on the contrast between Republican legislators’ preoccupation with voter regulation and their refusal to acknowledge the rampant gun violence in America.
“There are 30,000 gun deaths a year and Republicans act like there’s nothing they can do, but when it came to voting, they went out of their way to try to prove it was so widespread that it actually overturned the election,” he said. “If there were 30,000 cases of voter fraud conspiracy across states, then even I’d be in favor of new laws. [Garcia] wrote a letter saying [his Jan. 6 vote was] in service to his constituents, but how were the people of the 25th Congressional District served by his vote to disenfranchise those voters, when the district voted in favor of Joe Biden by ten points? I can’t square that circle and he’s never explained it.”
Garcia’s staff did not respond following multiple requests for comment.