California officials are taking legal action against the state Republican Party for collecting ballots with unofficial ballot drop boxes as the 2020 election is underway. Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent cease-and-desist notices to both state and county GOP offices to remove these drop boxes. If the party does not comply by Thursday (October 15), the party could be prosecuted.
"The reports that we are hearing are disturbing," Becerra said during a Monday (October 12) press conference. "It is illegal, but more than just illegal, it is irresponsible to tamper with a citizen's vote." A Republican spokesperson said the party will continue to collect ballots with the unofficial drop boxes the same day.
It's legal for third parties to collect ballots in the Golden State, a move state Democrats deployed during the 2018 midterms. A voter must sign the outside of their ballot that authorizes someone else to return it on their behalf. California Republicans called it "ballot harvesting" and blamed the practice for major electoral losses that year. Now that November is around the corner and the coronavirus pandemic continues, GOP leaders said they are going to use third-party ballot collection to bolster their efforts.
Padilla and Becerra claimed the unauthorized drop boxes placed by the GOP in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties differs from the Democrats' approach; they said voters will assume their ballots will be delivered through official means without signing their ballots. County officials are the only ones allowed to install drop boxes, as well. California GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas argued that the drop boxes are the same as in-person ballot collection, according to Politico.
"If Democrats are so concerned with ballot harvesting, they are the ones who wrote the legislation, voted for it, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. California Republicans would be happy to do away with ballot harvesting. We are continuing [with our] ballot harvesting program," Barajas said.
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