The state issued cease and desist orders to the California Republican Party and local GOP officials in Orange, Los Angeles and Fresno counties over the use of unauthorized ballot drop boxes, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday.
Republicans have until Thursday, Oct. 15 to remove the drop boxes, which Padilla said are not legal. Otherwise, he said his office will “consider all of our legal options,” which could include both civil and criminal charges that can carry felony penalties of up to four years in prison.
Republicans are responding by concurrently slamming California’s permissive ballot collection laws and also claiming protection under that law. Officials with state and local GOP groups argue that Democrats are trying to suppress GOP votes by limiting so-called “ballot harvesting,” where people can turn in ballots for other registered voters, when the controversial law doesn’t work in their favor.
“Are we really supposed to believe it’s fine for paid Democrat operatives to collect ballots from strangers and throw them in a bag, but churches aren’t allowed to collect them for members of their congregation and put them in a box?” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, said Monday.
But elections officials and legal experts say unauthorized drop boxes are not covered by ballot collection laws, with distinct differences between the two processes.
“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,” Padilla said during a Monday press conference. “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.”
Reports about unauthorized ballot drop boxes at local political party offices, candidate headquarters, churches, gun shops and other locations came pouring into the Secretary of State’s office over the weekend, agency spokesman Sam Mahood told the Register on Sunday.
One box in Leisure World Seal Beach appeared to be cardboard and was covered in red paper and set on a table under a red tent. A sign hung on the box read “Ballot drop box, sponsored by: LW Republican Club.,” according to a photo a reader sent the Register on Monday.
Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said his staff contacted people running that booth and that they were assured the box won’t be used anymore. Other ballot boxes reported to the Orange County District Attorney’s office also have been removed, agency spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said Monday.
But Becerra said he’s heard what he termed “disturbing” reports about GOP officials saying they don’t intend to comply with the removal orders.
The California Republican Party didn’t respond to repeated requests to discuss details, but continues to argue that it believes unofficial drop boxes are legally allowed under state election laws.
Ballot collecting was legalized four years ago in California, with the passage of Assembly Bill 1921. The law allows anyone to collect absentee or mail-in ballots from voters and then drop those ballots …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment