California Republicans defend 'unauthorized' ballot boxes as subpoenas are issued

Elias Hubbard
October 19, 2020

Unofficial ballot boxes are legal, California Republican leaders said Wednesday, saying they will continue to use them despite cease and desist orders from the California Attorney General and Secretary of State.

State election officials were alerted to the unauthorized ballot drop boxes sprouting up across Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange counties after a Southern California Republican Party field employee tweeted a picture holding a ballot next to one of the boxes.

"We believe that temporarily holding VBM ballots in a locked box at a church or local Party headquarters is more secure than a Party volunteer or paid operative holding harvested ballots collected from voters at a senior center in the back seat of his or her auto - though both are legal", the party said in its letter to state leaders.

The California GOP letter argues current law does not require that section of the ballot to be filled out - and the party quotes this provision of AB 306, passed in 2018: "a ballot shall not be disqualified exclusively because the person authorized to return it did not provide on the identification envelope his or her name, relationship to the voter, or signature".

Twitter user Rebecca Albarran posted this photo on Monday of an unofficial ballot drop box outside St.

All week long, local and state Republican officials said that their method of collecting ballots was legal under the state's "ballot harvesting" laws. And I think that what they should do, really, is offer people hope and make everyone participate and make everyone be able to vote and those kind of things rather than make those fake ballot boxes.

"The fact that it is a box does not make it illegal", Hiltachk said. "If we have to use a bag, then we'll use a bag".

Himself a Republican, Schwarzenegger said Thursday on CNN Tonight that the GOP has gone "off the rails" and was doing a "stupid thing" with such a transparent attempt at sowing confusion among voters in competitive congressional districts.

During a telephone conference Wednesday, the California GOP's attorney said an "overzealous volunteer" was to blame for putting the word "official" on some of the party's private drop boxes.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office immediately launched an investigation, saying the installation of boxes may constitute a felony. He said the secretary of state is "mistaken".

A small, "isolated" number of the party's ballot boxes were briefly mislabelled as "official" - a violation corrected within hours, state Republican Party attorney Thomas Hiltachk said in a telephone conference call with reporters. Tom Hiltachk, the party's general counsel, said the GOP would direct its harvesters to sign the ballots where possible to show who was delivering them but that ballots in at least one county - Contra Costa - didn't include space for them to sign.

"There is no law that requires a third-party recipient of a VBM ballot to fill out the identification envelope or imposes any penalty for the failure to do so", California GOP attorneys added. You can also request and complete a paper voter registration form and mail or hand deliver it to your county elections official to register to vote.

"The way California law was written four years ago in 2016, you can have individuals that go to your house, collect your ballot, leave it in the trunk of their vehicle, put it in their home or garage", Barajas said on NPR. According to him, none of the boxes now carry those labels.

"When that chain of custody is lost, there is no guarantee all the ballots will be returned to the county and on a timely basis", Padilla said. But others place them in official ballot drop boxes spread throughout the county.

"California is not going to discard all those ballots", she said. "Could you use that lack of penalty and essentially exploit it to your benefit?" For the first time, California has mailed a ballot to every active registered voter before the election to encourage people to cast ballots remotely instead of in person during a pandemic. However, Padilla explained Monday that voters must authorize collectors, who must sign each envelope and disclose their relationship to the voter. "We knew the COVID-19 pandemic would pose significant challenges, but elections officials have prepared and voters have responded".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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