Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra ordered the state Republican Party to stop using unauthorized ballot collection boxes — some of which were found in Los Angeles County — or face civil or criminal punishment.
The warnings and cease-and-desist orders stemmed from complaints surfacing this past weekend out of Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties about unofficial ballot collection boxes.
State Republican Party officials argued that what they are doing is no different than so-called ballot harvesting, which allows organizations to collect ballots on behalf of individuals and submit them to election officials. But Padilla and Becerra disagreed.
“Unofficial, unauthorized ballot drop boxes are not permitted by state law,” Padilla said, who called their use “misleading.”
Padilla sent a cease-and-desist order to Republican organizations in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties to remove the unauthorized ballot boxes. Becerra warned of consequences for those who fail to heed the order.
“We’re getting some disturbing reports that perhaps some Republican Party officials in the state where these fake drop boxes have been situated may not be prepared or willing to remove these drop boxes,” Becerra said.
“We hope the message goes out loud and clear that anyone who improperly solicits or manages a citizen’s vote is subject to prosecution for engaging in activities that are against the law in the state of California. I’m trying to be careful how I say this but the reports we’re hearing are disturbing.”
Padilla said the unofficial drop boxes are not the same as authorized ones because the legal ones have been constructed in a way to ensure the safety of the ballot. He said his office will do its best to count every ballot no matter where it came from, but he said unofficial drop boxes can undermine public confidence in the election.
When a voter cannot manage to put a ballot in the mail or drop one off at an elections office or drop box, the voter can authorize someone to do it for them, but the voter and the carrier of the vote must sign the envelope containing the ballot, Padilla said.
The state Republican Party issued a statement insisting the drop boxes were legal.
“In California, where you can have convicted felons and individuals with a criminal history go door to door and collect ballots from voters, Democrats are now upset because organizations, individuals and groups are offering an opportunity for their friends, family, and patrons to drop off their ballot with someone they know and trust,” according to a statement from the California Republican Party.
“The Democrat anger is overblown when state law allows organizations, volunteers or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and drop them off at polling places or election offices.
“If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and (former) Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting.”
State GOP spokesman Hector Barajas added, “The Secretary of State’s action is just a deflection from the mounting criticism for giving a non- budgeted, $35 million get-out-the-vote contract to a `Team Biden’ PR firm, which is also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose Republican candidates in targeted California districts.”
Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, who chairs the Senate committee on elections and constitutional amendments, criticized the use of the unauthorized drop boxes.
“Local prosecuting agencies will have the full support of the state when pursuing and prosecuting the criminal activity of committing voter fraud, such as the setting up of these unofficial and unauthorized ballot boxes,” Umberg said. “Those setting up these boxes in an attempt to misrepresent themselves as election officials and subvert our democracy must be punished.”
The Secretary of State office issued a memo on Oct. 11 warning that the use of unauthorized, non-official vote by mail ballot drop boxes does not comply with state law. Read the memo here: https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/ccrov/pdf/2020/october/20240jl.pdf
The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is responsible for authorizing the placement of all Vote by Mail Drop Box locations within L.A. County. There are 403 official L.A. County Drop Box locations which can be found at https://locator.lavote.net/locations/.
Information about the official Drop Boxes can be found at https://lavote.net/docs/rrcc/election-info/VBM-Drop-Box-Flyer.pdf .
Residents who have questions about Vote by Mail Drop Boxes or are aware of any unofficial boxes, are encouraged to call 800-815-2666, then choose option 2. Residents can also email email@example.com or go to LAvote.net to use the locator tool to find Drop Boxes throughout L.A. County. This information is also printed on the Vote by Mail Drop Boxes.