California GOP leaders refuse to remove unauthorized ballot boxes

California GOP leaders refuse to remove unauthorized ballot boxes”

The California Republican Party said Wednesday it will not comply with an order from the Secretary of State and state Attorney General to shut down unauthorized ballot drop boxes that its volunteers and operatives installed at churches and retail locations in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties.

The California Secretary of State Alex Padilla now is investigating the matter and suggested that these boxes may indeed be illegal.

Padilla warned state GOP authorities could face both civil and criminal charges that can carry felony charges of approximately four years in prison if they did not comply.

The state of California appears to be backing off legal threats against the California Republican Party over its use of unauthorized ballot drop boxes.

But GOP officials continued Friday to insist that their actions were legitimate, aside from correcting some boxes that were mistakenly identified as "official" places for dropping off completed ballots. "Ballot harvesting is legal in the state of California, Democrats legalized it, and it is clear with these ballot boxes Republicans are following the laws Democrats put in place". The party will accept ballots delivered to a local party office or headquarters and will make boxes, and instructions on its proper use, available to any person or organization desiring to collect ballots. State officials argue that the unauthorized boxes are misleading and illegal. "If he wants to take us to court, then we'll see him in court", CRP spokesman Hector Barajas told ABC 7 this week.

Padilla said anyone agreeing to deliver a ballot for someone else to a local election office must sign the outside of the ballot's envelope. He said he did not know how many ballots were received in party drop boxes so far.

Padilla and Becerra told reporters their investigation is ongoing, and they have issued a subpoena for more information about the state GOP's ballot collection efforts. The practice is illegal in a spate of U.S. states.

But the state GOP said Padilla and Becerra "didn't bother to learn the facts before accusing us" of wrongdoing.

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Stanislaus County's offical Ballot drop box outside the Registrar of Voters office in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday Oct. 2 2020. But that doesn't mean the party couldn't be held accountable, she said. The state allows a another person to return a ballot, as long as permission is signed over on the back of the envelope, and it is returned within three days.

State law governs how the ballot boxes are designed, signage, and how often ballots need to be pulled out and turned over to election officials. It's a stupid thing that they're doing right now with those ballot boxes.

Barajas told the Times earlier this week that "we collect (the ballots), we transmit them, and we have a process that enables us to make sure that they are processed by the (registrar of voters), just like the general public".

The party did, however, say that it would keep the ballot boxes indoors, attended by staff or volunteers, and would drop any signage that claimed they were "official". Hiltachk said on Wednesday that the box was in transit from a vehicle to the church and never left unattended on the sidewalk as it appeared in the photo. The church did not respond to the Blade's request for comment.

Earlier this week, Padilla, the secretary of state, sent a memo to county election officials flagging Elections Code section 3011 (a)(11), which states a designee must include a signature on the return vote-by-mail envelope as the person authorized to return the ballot, along with providing a name and relationship to the voter. "Could you use that lack of penalty and essentially exploit it to your benefit? I guess my response is, it is still not what the law provides you should do".

The dispute has grabbed national attention and cast a spotlight on the way Californians are voting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"What we hear in terms of rhetoric is one thing, what we see in practice is another", Padilla said.

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