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California Attorney General Demands Republicans Remove Non-Official Ballot Boxes

Alex Padilla Neal Kelley

He would not say how many exist or where they are located. "The Democrats wrote the rules", he said.

"If you are in possession or control of any vote-by-mail ballots received through these unauthorized, non-official drop boxes, we demand that you immediately return and surrender those voted vote-by-mail ballots to the appropriate county elections official", the officials said. But he doesn't recommend them.

"As a matter of policy, unofficial drop boxes are a really bad idea", he said in an email.

"Those ballot boxes would be completely legal if they instead just had a person there", Mitchell said.

Turn it in at a designated drop-off location - like a vote center or a secure ballot drop-box.

"California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting".

The dispute made California, a solidly Democratic stronghold in the 3 November presidential election, an unlikely new flashpoint in the partisan fight over absentee and mail-in voting that Republicans have attacked with unfounded assertions as being rife with fraud.

State and county Republican parties have claimed responsibility for the drop boxes and argue they're legal under the state's "ballot harvesting" laws. "The pedestrian use of this ballot delivery law is 100 times greater than any kind of organized political campaign's use of the law".

Republican refused, saying they are taking advantage of California's liberal ballot collection law that allows anyone to collect ballots from voters and deliver them to county election offices.

San Diego Democratic Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez said her experience as a door-knocking labor organizer in San Diego inspired her to author the 2016 law.

Drop-off sites were created to allow voters to personally submit ballots in advance rather than have to depend on timely mail delivery, while letting voters avoid polling places that could pose a risk of coronavirus exposure on Election Day, Nov. 3.

As for the signature, she said: "I'm happy to rewrite the law so they will be punished for their behavior". But California Republicans aren't taking any chances that court might side with them.

One voter reported an "Official Ballot Drop Box" that was "approved and bought by the GOP" outside of a Los Angeles area church before it was removed after county officials warned on social media that it was "not an official vote by mail drop box and does not comply with [state] regulations for drop boxes", according to KCAL.

The practice caught Republicans by surprise in 2018, when Democrats used "ballot harvesting" as part of their successful effort to flip seven Republican-held congressional districts.

"Anyone who knowingly engages with the tampering or misuse of the vote is subject to prosecution", Becerra said during a Monday news conference with Padilla, in which he called the boxes "fake".

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley told the OC Register that the boxes are nearly certainly a violation of the state's election laws.

The state GOP has remained defiant.

The narrow, gray metal containers look starkly different from L.A. County's official ballot collection boxes - typically wide, oversized bins marked with bright yellow and blue sides, multilingual instructions and the Los Angeles city seal.

Another unofficial ballot box, in Orange County, went viral after a regional field director for the Republican Party, Jordan Tygh, tweeted a picture of himself in front of the box and urged voters, "DM me for convenient locations to drop your ballot off at!". Barajas said those will be relabeled.

But in cases where a ballot box was labeled "official", he said the fraud charge is a bit more clear cut.

Just because the law says counties should operate drop boxes doesn't mean that other organizations can't also. By law, this person can not get paid to pick up your ballot and must turn it in to election officials within three days of collection.

"Democrats are now upset because organisations, individuals and groups are offering an opportunity for their friends, family and patrons to drop off their ballot with someone they know and trust", Barajas said in a statement.

Later in the memo, Padilla notes that any person found to be in violation of the section of state election code governing ballot drop boxes could face a felony conviction with a potential sentence of as much as two to four years in prison.