Updated Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

California GOP installed ballot drop boxes deemed illegal by election officials

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Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to the state Republican Party over unauthorized ballot drop boxes that officials said were illegal.

Driving the news: The California GOP acknowledged on Monday that it owned several unofficial drop boxes in southern California. Earlier reports of the boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties prompted Padilla to issue a memo on Sunday telling county registrars that the unofficial drop boxes were illegal, per AP.

  • The reports included a tweet by Jordan Tygh, a regional field director for the California Republican Party, who posted a photo of himself next to an unauthorized drop box last week, the Orange County Register notes.
  • Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in the Los Angeles area also incorrectly labeled a drop box as "official," per KCAL 9.

What they're saying: California GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas acknowledged in an emailed statement Monday that the party owns the boxes.

  • He declined to say how many there are and their locations.
  • In the statement sent before the cease and desist letter was announced, Barajas claimed that the state’s law governing so-called ballot harvesting allows a group to collect and return ballots.
  • "The Democrat anger is overblown when state law allows organizations, volunteers or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and drop them off at polling places or election offices," Barajas said.

"If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and [former] Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting."

The bottom line: “Misleading voters is wrong regardless of who’s doing it," Secretary of State Padilla said in a Monday afternoon news conference with Becerra.

  • "Unofficial ballot drop boxes are prohibited — third party ballot collections are allowed, but a voter must designate someone to return their ballot on their behalf," the Orange County Registrar of Voters added in a press release on Monday.

What's next: The California Republican Party has until Thursday to stop using the boxes.

  • Padilla and Becerra said they would consider legal options if the state GOP does not comply.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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