Despite state election officials sending a cease and desist order, the California Republican Party said it will not remove its unofficial ballot boxes.
According to CNN, unofficial ballot boxes have been found in the counties of Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura. California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas sent a statement to CNN indicating its “ballot harvesting program will continue.”
In a letter to Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, attorneys for the GOP argued the boxes aren’t illegal because they’re indoors (even though the one found at a Castaic church was outside), aren’t labeled official (even though the one found at the Castaic church was labeled official), and they have people monitoring them (the one found at the Castaic church was looking pretty lonely to me in the picture, just saying.)
“The California Republican Party did not promote, or authorize the promotion of, the secure boxes as ‘official mail drop boxes,’” the letter states. “When we learned that a sign using the word ‘official’ was used in some locations on Saturday, October, 10, 2020, we corrected that error immediately and within hours.”
Lol OK, b.
A spokesperson for Padilla said that the secretary’s office is reviewing the GOP letter and is in the process of deciding next steps. Padilla and California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, both Democrats, have called the unofficial ballot boxes illegal, according to PBS News. They both fear that the unofficial boxes are a form of voter suppression because they will sow confusion with voters.
It should be noted that ballot harvesting, itself, isn’t illegal in California. The difference here is that most ballot harvesting operations typically involve going door-to-door to pick up individual ballots, not advertising you have an “official ballot box.”
My bad, “unofficial.”
Republicans have long gone after mail-in voting and ballot harvesting, saying the practices innately lead to fraud without, you know, providing any evidence that they do. President Trump has been one of the most vocal critics of mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes. He has frequently implied that this year’s election will be fraudulent because the pandemic has resulted in an election that will be conducted largely by mail.
Despite saying the practice leads to voter fraud, Trump has encouraged the California GOP to continue its ballot harvesting operation. “You mean only Democrats are allowed to do this? But haven’t the Dems been doing this for years? See you in court. Fight hard Republicans!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night.
Quick note, it’s legal for any party to ballot harvest in California, as long as it’s done in person. The question of legality mainly arises from the usage of unofficial ballot boxes that aren’t subject to the same rules and regulations as official ones.
“We have been opposed to ballot harvesting and Republicans are still opposed to ballot harvesting, but we have a choice. We can either whine and complain about the election results later or we can get smart and figure out the rules and figure out the chess board they laid out before us and play the game that they’re doing,” Barajas told KABC. He added that they may even expand their practice because it’s been going so well.
The California GOP neglected to tell officials if there are more unofficial ballot boxes than the four that have been found, and where they may be located within the state.
California took the step of sending mail-in ballots to every active registered voter to encourage remote voting, and Padilla’s office has said that 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned. At this point in the election cycle in 2016, only 150,000 early ballots had been returned in the state.
So, to my California peeps, should you have any concerns about where to find an official ballot box, you can contact your local registrar’s office for a list of locations. Also, the Secretary of State’s website provides a comprehensive tool that allows you to find official polling locations in your area.