California GOP Admits to Planting Fake Ballot Boxes and Refuses to Remove Them

The containers, labeled “Official ballot drop-off box,” have appeared at churches, gyms, and gun stores in recent weeks.
October 13, 2020, 2:14pm
Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA (Sipa via AP Images)
Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA (Sipa via AP Images)

The California GOP is blatantly breaking the state’s ballot harvesting law and daring California officials to do something about it.

The California Republican Party admitted to installing fake ballot-drop boxes, after reports that they were trying to trick voters prompted California officials to send a cease-and-desist letter to the party.

The GOP, however, said it will continue using the drop boxes, falsely claiming that the boxes are permissible under a California law that allows anyone to physically deliver a ballot on behalf of someone else, so long as they’re authorized to do so.

The containers, labeled “Official ballot drop-off box,” have appeared at churches, gyms, gun stores, and other locations in recent weeks. The boxes have appeared in at least three large California counties: Los Angeles, Orange, and Fresno. A church in Los Angeles County wrote in a Facebook post that the box located outside of the church was “approved and paid for by the GOP,” VICE News reported Monday.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a cease-and-desist letter to the state Republican Party, giving them until Thursday, October 15, to remove the boxes. “The use of unauthorized, non-official vote-by-mail ballot drop boxes does not comply with state law governing ballot collection activities,” the letter said.

The California law, passed in the Democratic-controlled Legislature in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, expanded ballot collection privileges beyond a close relative and to anyone who has permission from the voter to drop it off on their behalf. Democrats say the new law makes it easier to vote, while Republicans have claimed it will increase voter fraud. Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino County officials said earlier this year that they haven’t found any such problems with collected ballots.

An Orange County election official said Monday that the ballots that are already in the fake boxes wouldn’t be thrown out, and that the voters who dropped their ballots there would be contacted “just to verify that they, in fact, designated their ballots to be picked up by somebody else,” the Orange County Register reported.

The California GOP blasted Padilla in a statement. "If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law,” GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas said in a statement. “California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting.”

Later, Barajas said the California GOP is “going to respond to the letter, continue our ballot harvest program, and not allow the Secretary of State to suppress the vote,” in a statement to NPR.

Padilla denied, however, that the ballot boxes are a form of ballot harvesting. The ballot collection law authorizes voters to physically hand their ballots to anyone they trust, including campaign workers, and deliver them to election offices.

“The problem here is with voters unknowingly delivering their ballots to an unofficial drop box mislabeled and misrepresented as an official drop box. They do not know who it is they’re surrendering their ballot to,” Padilla said Monday. “The impression [voters] have with the words ‘official drop box’ is that they’re surrendering it to a county official. And that’s not the case.”

Cover: Mail-in ballot from the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder. This ballot is for the November 3, 2020 election, and covers LA City, LA County, California, and US. This ballot can be mailed in postage free or dropped off to special ballot boxes all over LA County. 9/5/2020 Los Angeles, CA USA (Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA)(Sipa via AP Images)