Progressive Democrats who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) have launched an audit of the results of the disputed California Democratic Party chair election, charging that voters were allowed to cast ballots without proper ID after the candidate they supported lost.
Kimberly Ellis, the former director of Emerge America, a women's political organization, lost the election to serve as chair of the California Democratic Party to Eric Bauman, a longtime party operative, in a close race over the weekend. Bauman won by a slim margin of 62 votes out of 3,000 cast.
Ellis enjoyed a wave of support from Sanders backers–so-called "Berniecrats," or members of the far-left, activist wing of the party–according to Politico.
Her loss sparked protests from her supporters, who decried what they said were irregularities in the electoral process–including the charge that voters cast proxy ballots without proper ID.
Ellis supporters first demanded a vote recount, which they were not granted, before starting a detailed audit this week. The outgoing California Democratic Party chair, John Burton, said Ellis would be given full access to the ballots to examine, Politico reported.
The audit, which began on Tuesday morning, is headed by the California Democratic Party's controller, Hilary Crosby. She will be joined by San Benito County Chair Gregory Rivera, former Regional Director Martha Gamez, and members of the Ellis campaign team.
"Some Democratic insiders are already worried the dispute has potential to do long-term damage, creating a rift in the state party as it heads into crucial 2018 elections, where as many as nine GOP House seats could be at stake in California," Politico noted.
"This is our Tea Party moment," one Democratic strategist said of the Sanders-inspired insurgent movement. "And it's not going away."
Some Republicans have capitalized on the protests, noting that the activists behind them are blaming improper use of IDs for their candidate's loss while the Democratic Party adamantly opposes voter ID laws.
"Democrats think voter identification laws are important for their party elections but don't think they are good enough for the California voters," said Jim Brulte, chair of the California Republican Party. "It should be clear to the people of California that the Democrats are willing to put the elections of our state officials at risk while protecting their own party elections."
The national Democratic Party's platform describes voter ID laws as a "form of voting restriction." The Republican Party's platform, in contrast, says that such laws are necessary to ensure the security of elections.
"We are concerned, however, that some voting procedures may be open to abuse. For this reason, we support legislation to require proof of citizenship when registering to vote and secure photo ID when voting," the GOP platform states.
Ellis has said she will not concede the election until the audit is completed but that she will abide by the results. The audit is expected to be finished quickly.