Senior electoral officials in California scramble to find out how many illegal ballot boxes Republican workers put in three counties in the state over the weekend as local law enforcement agencies continue to search for outstanding witnesses and potential suspects. The state’s Republican Party has since indicated that it is not complying with an official order to remove the boxes and may even add more.
On Monday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said his office, in partnership with the California GOP Department of Justice, issued an injunction to remove the illegal ballot boxes that have surfaced in Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Fresno County.
Padilla said the notice had also been sent to the Republican parties in the three counties in question, giving them until Thursday to comply with orders to remove all Dropboxes.
“If they refuse, we will of course consider all of our legal options,” said Padilla at a virtual press conference with Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Last Thursday, a regional field director for the California Republican Party in Orange County tweeted a photo of himself holding an emailed ballot slip next to a black cabinet with an “Official Ballot Drop Off Box” sticker on it. The staff member, Jordan Tygh, encouraged voters to send him a message about “suitable places” to cast their ballots.
Republicans say this is just a ballot harvest – a practice that allows volunteers, organizations, or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and hand them in at the county polling station.
“The anger of the Democrats is exaggerated,” said California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas. He added that state laws and regulations don’t specify whether or not private organizations’ dropboxes are allowed.
Padilla said the pictures his office received over the weekend showed some of the boxes marked “official” even though they were not placed in those areas by the county election officials. (California voters will find the location of the official ballot boxes here.)
One of several ways California voters have to return their postal ballot paper is to choose someone they trust to drop the completed ballot off at a county polling station. In 2016, the law was expanded to allow volunteers, campaign workers and private organizations to return a ballot in addition to close family members.
The ballot paper must be signed by both the voter and the person picking it up and submitted to a local election office within 72 hours. Employees can be paid by the hour to collect ballots in California, but they cannot be paid for the number of ballots they collect.
“In California, where convicted felons and those with a criminal history can go door-to-door collecting ballots from voters, Democrats are now angry because organizations, individuals and groups are giving their friends, family and patrons an opportunity to cast their vote on someone to give up whom they know and trust, “said Barajas. “If we wanted to use a Santa bag, we could. A locked heavy box seems a lot safer,” he added.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno County Republican website included instructions that read, “Don’t take the risk of your vote not being counted. If your ballot is in the mail, mark your ballot in full and then submit it. to one of the safe locations listed below as soon as possible. ”The locations listed included gun shops, a gas station, and the county Republican headquarters. Now the link to the illegal ballot box collection points is blank, and the Sacramento Bee reported that Fresno County Republicans would remove the ballot boxes by Thursday.
Republicans are “mislabeling” and “misrepresenting” the boxes causing a problem, Padilla said, because voters are led to believe that they are giving their ballots to election officials. He added that voters “do not know who to vote on”.
The Secretary of State is still investigating how many of these boxes appeared over the weekend and how many voters used them. Padilla said all eligible ballots that arrive at the county’s polling stations with “appropriate measures to ensure the integrity of this vote” will be processed and counted.
The state Republican Party didn’t immediately respond when asked if it would honor the injunction by Thursday deadline, but Barajas, the state party’s spokesman, later told CBS Sacramento that operations would continue – albeit with the word, ” officially “removed from the ballot boxes.
“We will continue our ballot harvest programs,” said Barajas. When asked by CBS Sacramento why the Republican Party called its private ballot boxes “official” in the first place, he said he would “think about whether there could be a difference if we had a ballot box out here on the street in the corner.” put up.” But these are boxes that are on business premises. ”
Barajas said the California Republican Party would remove the word “official” but not remove the boxes themselves. He said they could even add more boxes in additional locations, including gun shops and churches across the state.
“Show us where to stop within the law,” Barajas told CBS Sacramento. “Tell us within the law where we are breaking the law.” Regarding Padilla’s threat to take legal action if the boxes are not removed, Barajas said, “See you in court.”
A contest between Democratic incumbent Harley Rouda and Republican Michele Steel takes place in Orange County, home of the 48th Congressional District. Voter District Chancellor Neal Kelley told CBS News that at least six boxes had been reported over the weekend and he believed they’d all been removed by Monday afternoon.
Kelley said the “frustrating part” was not knowing how many ballots were cast on the illegal boxes in Orange County. “If I did, I’d like to get in touch with these voters,” added Kelley.
Orange County prosecutors said they received reports of “multiple unauthorized ballot boxes” over the weekend. A spokesman told CBS News that the boxes had appeared in at least two towns in the county, adding that “we are looking for outstanding witnesses and potential suspects.”