California GOP defends illegal ballot boxes, plans to expand program

After a cease and desist letter was sent to the California Republican Party regarding their illegal ballot drop boxes, the state GOP says they plan to expand the program.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- After California Secretary of State Alex Padilla sent a cease and desist letter to the California Republican Party regarding their illegal ballot drop boxes, the state GOP isn't backing down and says they plan to expand the program.

"We are going to continue this program. If he wants to take us to court, then we'll see him court," said Hector Barajas, spokesman for the California Republican Party.

The controversy started over the weekend when the secretary of state's office and county registrar's received reports of suspicious ballot drop boxes in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Fresno counties. The state Republican Party says the boxes are legal because it's ballot harvesting, which authorizes another person to take their ballot to a collection site, but the secretary of state says this doesn't qualify as ballot harvesting because the collection boxes are unmanned.

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Unofficial ballot drop boxes have been spotted in Orange County, Los Angeles and Fresno, and state officials say they are illegal.



"We have been opposed to ballot harvesting and Republicans are still opposed to ballot harvesting, but we have a choice. We can either whine and complain about the election results later or we can get smart and figure out the rules and figure out the chess board they laid out before us and play the game that they're doing," said Barajas.

If any ballots were found in the unauthorized drop boxes, those voters could be contacted to vote again. Republican Michelle Steel who is running against incumbent Harley Rouda in Orange County's 48th District released a statement saying "I don't condone any unofficial means of collecting ballots. Every vote counts, and we must ensure ballots are turned in and counted responsibly and legally."

Rouda believes this is a concerted effort by the state GOP to take votes away from him.

"On one hand they're arguing that mail-in ballots, that we have to be concerned about that process when on the other hand, they're literally putting out fraudulent ballot boxes and telling voters to bring their ballots and drop them off there. Here's the big concern. This is what the ballot looks like when it goes back in," Rouda said holding a ballot. "On the backside of this is the name of the person who is delivering that ballot, who the voter is. It's very easy for them to be able to see whether it is a Democrat or Republican."

Democrats say the unofficial ballot drop boxes is voter suppression because voters are now confused about which drop boxes are legitimate and which are not.

With the election already in full swing, Loyola Law professor Jessica Levinson says this could negatively affect the trust that voters have in the election process.

"This is different when it comes to security concerns, when it comes to protocols, it is different to just put something in an unofficial drop box than an official one, or to have a conversation with somebody who you designate," Levinson said.

The California GOP has until Thursday to remove all the boxes.

To find early voting and vote-by-mail ballot drop off locations, visit https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/ and to make sure your vote is counted, visit https://wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov/.
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