CA officials, GOP clash over unauthorized ballot drop boxes

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State officials have issued a cease-and-desist order to the California GOP, ordering the party to remove unauthorized ballot drop boxes popping up in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the order on Monday in conjunction with state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, giving the state and county Republican counties until Thursday to comply.

But the state GOP is insisting that the boxes are legal. In a statement, spokesman Hector Barajas pointed to the state’s “vote harvesting” law, which allows volunteers and campaign workers to collect and submit completed ballots on a voter’s behalf.

Barajas said with concerns about voter suppression swirling, this is an opportunity for voters to drop off their ballots with someone they trust.

“The way Democrats wrote the law, if we wanted to use a Santa bag, we could,” he said. “A locked heavy box seems a lot safer.”

At issue are signs on the boxes that incorrectly identify them as “official” ballot drop boxes, which could mislead voters to believe that they are submitting their ballots directly to elections officials.

“It is illegal – more than just illegal, it is irresponsible – to tamper with a citizen’s vote,” said Becerra, “to anyone who is trying to improperly solicit, obtain and manage a citizen’s vote that they are subject to prosecution for engaging in activities that are against the law in California.”

Becerra expressed concern that the California GOP may not comply with the order. “We’re getting some disturbing reports that perhaps some of the Republican Party officials in parts of the state where these fake drop boxes have been situated may not be prepared or willing to remove those boxes.”

He urged the public to report the boxes if they are spotted, and reminded voters that they can sign up to have their ballot tracked at vote.ca.gov.

“Please, I hope everyone takes very seriously that in California, we want to protect the sanctity of your vote,” he said. You have a right to vote, you have a right to know that your vote will be counted the right way.”