Ballot boxes promoted by the Fresno County GOP were a violation of the law, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a cease and desist order to the state Republican Party, and the Republican Party’s of Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties. Becerra tweeted, “Anyone who tampers with the vote is tampering with free and fair elections.”
In a text to GV Wire℠, Fred Vanderhoof, chairman of the local Republican Party organization says the collection boxes placed at local businesses will be removed and all ballots turned in at those sites will be delivered to county elections officials.
The Orange County Register reported Monday that a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office said boxes were reported in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties at locations including political party offices, candidate headquarters and churches. He said the state was looking into the origin of the boxes.
The state issued a memo to county registrars this weekend clarifying that unofficial drop boxes are illegal and ballots must be returned by mail or to official polling places, vote centers and drop off locations.
The Fresno County Elections office offers this online tool for voters to find authorized ballot drop off locations.
Twitter users in Fresno County were quick to do a screen grab from the local GOP’s website that had provided a list of locations where the local GOP’s had directed voters to deliver their ballots. The information on the GOP’s website has since been removed.
GV Wire℠ contacted two businesses listed by the Fresno County Republican Party.
At the Sinclair Gas Station on East Kings Canyon Avenue, an employee that answered the phone said they previously had a box at the business, but didn’t anymore.
An employee at the Range Pistol Club told GV Wire℠ they still had their ballot box as of Monday morning.
“Voters who want to return their ballot at a drop box should only use official county drop boxes,” says county Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth in an press release. “There have been recent reports of groups promoting unofficial ballot drop boxes that are not affiliated with Fresno County Elections. In some instances they are promoting these ballot drop boxes as “official” or “secure.” The use of unauthorized, non-official ballot drop boxes is prohibited by state law.”
California Secretary of State
Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office says they’ve received reports of the boxes being used at local political party offices, candidate headquarters, and churches throughout the state. Examples include boxes or containers labeled simply as “ballot drop boxes,” while others have been designated misleadingly as “official ballot drop boxes.”
“Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes—especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes—is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law. My office is coordinating with local officials to address the multiple reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes. Californians should only use official ballot drop boxes that have been deployed and secured by their county elections office. Official ballot drop boxes and drop off locations can be found at caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov,” said Padilla in a statement emailed to GV Wire℠.
LA County Church Drop Box Confusion
The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office, which supervises the election, confirmed the drop box is not an official location to leave election ballots but officials at Freedom’s Way Baptist Church were advertising otherwise.
The church’s pastor has since removed the box.
The LA County Registrar's Office said the church's drop box is not an official location to leave election ballots but church leaders were advertising otherwise. The pastor said it has since been removed.
The Orange County Registrar of voters issued a news release about reports of groups promoting unofficial ballot drop boxes that are not affiliated with the county elections department. In some instances, these ballot drop boxes were advertised as “official” or “secure.”
“One of my important roles as the chief election official for Orange County is to provide options for voters – in fact tens of thousands of voters have utilized our official ballot drop boxes in recent days,” says Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley. “It’s important for groups, or individuals, to understand that attempting to post or install unofficial ballot drop boxes is in violation of state law.”
The OC Registrar replied to a tweet that pictured a regional field director for the California Republican Party in Orange County supporting the congressional campaign of Michelle Steel. He posed in a social media photo with a box labeled “official ballot drop off box” and encouraged voters to message him for “convenient locations” to drop their ballots.
Lance Trover, a spokesman for Steel’s campaign, deferred questions to the state Republican Party.
Messages seeking comment were left for the state Republican Party. The party questioned in a post on Twitter this weekend what would be wrong with a group providing an option for associates to drop off ballots in a safe location rather than handing them to an individual.
We are looking into this and the CA Secretary of State has also issued guidance confirming unofficial ballot drop boxes are not in compliance with state law. Third party ballot collections are allowed, but a voter must designate someone to return their ballot on their behalf.
— OC Registrar (@OCRegistrar) October 12, 2020
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)