Robert Summa
Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.
April 16, 2022, 6:17 am

Apr. 16—Several Republican candidates and delegates have expressed frustration over what they see as "irregularities" in the way the California Republican Party (CAGOP) handled a nomination process for candidates who needed a certain amount of delegate votes in order to speak at the party's convention in Anaheim on April 22-24.

These alleged irregularities have resulted in some within the party to question the validity of the process and why or how an apparent loss of delegate votes occurred.

For some, because the party has put such an increased focus on election integrity, they feel like what has happened with this simple nomination process runs counter to the narrative being pushed by Republican leaders both within the state and nationwide.

Chuck Smith, a Yuba City resident and Republican running for the U.S. Senate, said the CAGOP failed to notify him about the nomination process even though he was registered as a candidate.

"They (CAGOP) forgot to notify me (about) the nomination process. I was never notified to do that," Smith said.

What Smith referred to was a form that is required to be on the list to be nominated so that a candidate can speak at the party's convention in Anaheim.

"Once you get that list that they have, then the delegates can vote for whoever they want. It's my understanding they can vote for different people also," Smith said. "... I didn't find out about this until the 22nd of February because one of the delegates called me. ... She (the delegate) texted me and said, 'I was gonna vote for you, but you're not on the nomination list. I suggest you get on it.' So at that point in time, I called California GOP and said, 'How do I get on that list?' That day I filled out the paperwork. So on the 23rd I was on the list."

Kary Hauck, CEO of Sapphire Group, LLC, and a campaign advisor for Smith's Senate campaign, said her interactions with the CAGOP have been somewhat difficult.

"Feb. 17th I reached out to the California GOP and left a phone message for them, saying who I was, that I was working with Chuck who is a candidate for U.S. Senate and we wanted to know what the GOP could do to help him get his name out to the Republicans in California," Hauck said. "That call went unreturned. And then, this nomination process was just a month later and they didn't even bother to follow up with us."

Smith said because this is his first time as a candidate, he was unaware of the nomination process beforehand. Hauck said Smith was the last Senate candidate to hand in his form because both were "never made aware of the process."

"So voting closed at midnight, essentially at 11:59:59 on the 23rd of March. Delegates received a confirmation receipt via email when they voted, when they cast their nominations," Hauck said. "Now, they can nominate every single person on the ballot because a lot of Republicans feel that everybody should get the right to speak, so they can fill out their ballot and vote for everybody on the list if they want to. Those votes cannot be changed after they are cast, period, end of story. They cannot be retracted, changed, that is just the process."

Hauck said as a result of the reductions in votes that seemed to occur, several delegates were displeased with the fact that their vote didn't count. She said there have been some delegates conducting an investigation into the missing votes.

Hauck said Smith had the largest margin in votes lost with more than 50 percent missing in the final count. She said his vote tally of 31 was reduced to 14.

Another Republican candidate who was affected by alleged missing votes is George Yang, who is running for California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Yang met the minimum nomination criteria of 200 delegate votes to be able to speak at the convention. However, he still allegedly lost 20 votes on the night of March 23. Hauck said when Yang inquired about the missing votes, he was "told to quit asking questions and be glad he was able to speak" at the convention, she said.

Yang, who also is a delegate, confirmed that delegates can vote for all candidates. He said a vote that was already given cannot be taken back. He said a delegate also can go back and give an additional vote, but cannot take back any vote.

"They give out snapshots. Every day, before they have a snapshot that they can tell how many votes a candidate has," Yang said. "Those votes cannot be taken off. So we keep track of who voted for me and others do as well. The last day of the vote, the 23rd, at 7:30 p.m., they had the last snapshot. If you look at that data, there is no duplicate votes."

What Yang referred to is the CAGOP explanation for why votes were taken away. According to Yang and others, the CAGOP claimed that there were duplicate votes found and that is why votes were removed from final tallies.

Yang said every region of the CAGOP has a regional vice chairman. He said a regional vice chairman that he knows but wanted to keep anonymous, reached out to Bryan Watkins, the chief operating officer and executive director for CAGOP, about the missing delegate votes on Yang's behalf.

In a message that was sent to the Appeal by Yang, the regional vice chairman shared what Watkins told him about the missing delegates.

"I spoke with Bryan Watkins at the CAGOP to relay our concerns about the voting process. Indeed, it appears that the vote totals changed because they ran a de-duplication process to eliminate duplicate data/votes that were registered when people logged in multiple times to vote," the CAGOP regional vice chairman said. "The results were audited to ensure that nobody missed the 200-vote threshold as a result of data duplicates. I will ask that the voting process be communicated differently in the future so that the issue of data duplicates does not become a source of internal tension. Thank you for your vigilance and for bringing this to my attention. Let me know if you want to discuss further."

Hauck said the CAGOP reported they did do an audit of the nomination process, but have refused to release those findings.

In all, Morgan said a total of 93 votes were affected in the nomination process.

"Dozens of impacted Delegates have already been contacted to confirm the above numbers," Morgan said. "Please help the CRA with this investigation. We all deserve to know the truth of this important election integrity matter."

Victor Maranim, a Santa Cruz County CAGOP delegate, said he also was made aware of the alleged "irregularities" in the nomination process.

"We can't figure it all out because CAGOP will not give us access to what they're doing and they won't give us any explanation," Maranim said. "The candidates involved have contacted them directly and three of them have received the same response, that it's the same result."

Maranim also said he was told of an internal review that was done by the CAGOP and that "everything was correct."

Even though Maranim said his vote was not missing, he was concerned because he just wants "things to be truthful and transparent." He referred to the loss of votes as a "big deal" and that there was something "seriously wrong" with the process.

"They tried to say initially that they were deduping names, but you can't reduce it to zero," he said.

Yang stressed that he didn't want to specifically blame anyone for what happened. His goal is to find the truth. He said the CAGOP essentially had the attitude that the cost of dealing with the truth is too high and that the CAGOP did not want to be embarrassed by what happened. He said the CAGOP would rather pretend it never happened in the first place.

Hauck said the CAGOP reported they did do an audit of the nomination process, but have refused to release those findings.

Johnnie Morgan, president of the California Republican Assembly (CRA), alerted delegates about this issue in an email the Appeal obtained this week. In it, he told delegates what happened and how many votes were lost for each affected candidate.

"On March 23rd (with a midnight deadline) the CAGOP concluded an online nomination vote for statewide candidates. Final results were released the following day on March 24, 2022," Morgan said in the email. "Within a few days, multiple statewide candidates and delegates reported glaring errors and election irregularities. President Ronald Reagan called the California Republican Assembly, 'The Conscience of the Republican Party.' As such, it is our responsibility to report the Initial Independent Audit Results of the CAGOP Nomination Election process."

In the independent audit initial results presented by Morgan, he listed five statewide candidate nomination votes that were impacted. They include the following: — George Yang, Superintendent of Instruction, 42 votes missing — Lornie Sortor, Governor, 17 votes missing — Chuck Smith, U.S. Senate, 17 votes missing — Major Williams, Governor, 14 votes missing — James Bradley, U.S. Senate, 3 votes missing

"They tried to say initially that they were deduping names, but you can't reduce it to zero," he said.

Yang stressed that he didn't want to specifically blame anyone for what happened. His goal is to find the truth. He said the CAGOP essentially had the attitude that the cost of dealing with the truth is too high and that the CAGOP did not want to be embarrassed by what happened. He said the CAGOP would rather pretend it never happened in the first place.

"This makes me very angry," Yang said. "I'm not alleging any kind of wrongdoing on the numbers. I don't know who made the mistake. I'm not alleging any malice. All I can think is one thing, is that people who voted for me had their votes taken away at the final count and that's disrespecting their vote. They voted to let them speak."

Yang said while this issue may seem minor to some, integrity still mattered, no matter how small a problem it may be.

"We need to have an audit. That may not be the only problem," Yang said. "I have identified some problems I can prove, but this may be the tip of other problems I cannot prove unless we have an audit. People always say the problem is the cover-up and not the problem."

He said the CAGOP has essentially had the attitude that alerting people about this delegate issue serves only one purpose: To make the group look bad.

"They say, 'The election is over, let's move on,'" Yang said. "Integrity matters. People say, 'It's only 40 votes.' It matters. The process matters. Integrity matters."

Yang's other concern is that because the CAGOP will use technology moving forward for other voting matters, that other delegates are concerned. He said it's not necessarily the technology they are worried about, but the attitude of the CAGOP itself.

"What assurance do we have if there's another problem, and your attitude is let's cover it up, that's what concerns other delegates," Yang said. "The CAGOP will tell me they will use a different vendor and the CAGOP is going to use different software. Yes, they're going to use a different system, but the way that they're dealing with it when they see a mistake, it seems their first instinct is to cover it up. It doesn't make sense. You have a cover story that is full of holes that cannot hold up to scrutiny. The attitude of that is not acceptable."

Yang said Watkins reached out to him with concerns that Yang was making too big a deal of the missing delegate votes.

"Watkins said, 'George, we will help your campaign. Why would you want to jeopardize our reputation? If you get the nomination, we will support you,'" Yang said. "This is not why I am doing this. This is my 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' moment. If we do not have integrity in the process, regardless of the outcomes we want, then that is becoming problematic. We need to ensure integrity in the process. We need to be a stickler to integrity in the process. One of the things that I've come to realize is that you need to have moral courage."

The CAGOP did not respond as of press time when asked to comment on this story.