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US California GOP admits to owning unofficial ballot drop boxes; officials say they're illegal

02:15  13 october  2020
02:15  13 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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State officials said the unofficial ballot drop -off boxes do not meet state requirements for security and violate state law. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File). The California GOP has pushed voters to pop their mail-in ballots inside. Social media posts have advertised their locations, and one regional field

Unofficial voter ballot drop boxes are appearing all over the state of California , and legal experts are warning they are a “violation of state law.” The California Republican Party is responsible for placing them across the state, incuding in the densely populated areas of Los Angeles, Fresno, and Orange

California’s Republican Party on Monday acknowledged owning unofficial ballot drop boxes that state election officials said are illegal.

California election officials received reports over the weekend about the boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties.

On Sunday, the secretary of state issued a memo telling county registrars the boxes were illegal and that ballots must be mailed or brought to official voting locations.

California GOP Accused of Setting Up Fake Official Ballot Drop-Off Boxes Across State

  California GOP Accused of Setting Up Fake Official Ballot Drop-Off Boxes Across State Ballot boxes pertaining to be official have been set up in several locations across California—and their legality has been brought into question.Reports of such boxes, which claim to be official, have been shared with the California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla—who has suggested they could be illegal.

"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," he said , in A regional field director for the California Republican Party had shared a photo of himself posing by a drop -off box said to be official .

California authorities have launched a criminal investigation into unauthorized ballot boxes that the Republican party has placed in several counties, with authorities warning that these set-ups are illegal . The GOP admitted Monday that it owned the boxes and defended the practice.

“In short, providing unauthorized, non-official vote-by-mail ballot drop boxes is prohibited by state law,” the memo said.

State GOP spokesman Hector Barajas said that the party owns the boxes. He declined comment on how many exist and where they are located. Barajas said the state’s law governing so-called ballot harvesting allows an organization to collect and return groups of ballots.

a sign on the side of a building: On Monday, a sign at Selma's Central Valley Guns in Fresno County claims to be an “Authorized Secure Ballot Drop. © Joshua Yeager On Monday, a sign at Selma's Central Valley Guns in Fresno County claims to be an “Authorized Secure Ballot Drop." The Secretary of State's office 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, or ballot drop-off locations. Central Valley Guns was not listed as an official designated ballot drop-off by Fresno County Registrar of Voters Office.

“Democrats only seem to object to ballot harvesting when someone else does it,” Barajas said.

California Republicans ordered to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes

  California Republicans ordered to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes California officials have ordered the removal of unauthorized ballot drop boxes set up by Republicans in three Golden State counties."These unauthorized drop boxes are a disservice to state and local election administrators who have spent months working on the placement and deployment of official ballot drop boxes," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a news conference Monday, according to CNN.Padilla said that images show the boxes are labeled as "official." His office has issued a cease-and-desist order for their removal.

But in California , it appears the GOP is committing its own fraud in the form of illegal ballot drop -off boxes . Screenshot of tweet posted by Jordan Tygh, Regional Field Director for the Republican Party in Orange County. In fact, the unofficial boxes are against the law, state officials said Sunday . …

In California , citizens have the right to initiate legislation through the ballot initiative or repeal Proponents of a ballot initiative file signatures with local elections officials , who then have eight Three additional measures qualified for the ballot , but they were withdrawn following compromises

Democrats have blasted the use of the unofficial boxes and say they fear Republicans could use them to gather and dispose of ballots.

The practice of ballot harvesting involves people helping to turn in ballots for other voters. It is allowed in California under certain rules, and Democrats have offered to deliver ballots for individuals who request it, said Shery Yang Wonnacott, a spokesperson for the state’s Democratic Party. The party is concerned about the GOP using boxes that seem to pose as official collection sites, she said.

FIND AN OFFICIAL DROP BOX: Visit https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/ for more information.

The controversy surfaced after a regional field director for the state’s GOP in Orange County posed in a social media photo with one of the unofficial boxes and wearing a face covering supporting the congressional campaign of Michelle Steel, a county supervisor who is challenging Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda for his seat.

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“Vote-by-mail ballot drop box ” or “ drop box ” shall have the meaning set forth in California 20134. Accessibility of Ballot Drop Boxes . County elections officials shall ensure that drop box locations Drop box locations that are placed inside a building shall be assessed for accessibility as if they were

"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," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement responding to reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles, and

There were also reports about similar boxes at a church in the Los Angeles County community of Castaic and at various locations in Fresno County.

In Orange County, District Attorney Todd Spitzer is investigating at least two unofficial boxes in two different cities, said Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Neal Kelley, the county’s registrar of voters, said official drop boxes are clearly recognizable and carry official county elections logo. He said it wasn’t clear how many voters had used unofficial boxes but after receiving reports about them, he notified the state and district attorney’s office.

"Sounds like maybe half a dozen, but I don't know for sure,'' Kelley told City News Service about the number of boxes recovered. "We had a report of one in Seal Beach

that was a cardboard box.''

Kelley added, "The good news is we got the word out and there was a rapid response to it all.''

Fresno County elections officials advised voters to only use official county drop boxes that are designed to meet state standards for security.

Republicans win court battles as they go after drop boxes in key states

  Republicans win court battles as they go after drop boxes in key states Federal judges in the last week have upheld moves by Republicans in Texas and Ohio to limit drop boxes in their states, reversing lower court rulings that would have given voters more options for returning a mail ballot in person before Election Day. The rulings are part of a pattern across the country this year for the Republican Party, which has tried to limit options for voters in many states. In Pennsylvania, the state Republican Party and President Trump’s reelection campaign sued to block drop boxes from being used at all but were denied by the state Supreme Court.

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a sign on the side of the road: One of the 66 official, secure ballot drop boxes in Fresno County. Voters who want to return their ballot at a drop box should only use official county drop boxes, officials say. © Courtesy of Fresno County One of the 66 official, secure ballot drop boxes in Fresno County. Voters who want to return their ballot at a drop box should only use official county drop boxes, officials say.

"Fresno County has more than doubled the number of drop boxes required by the state. We have a total of 66 (32 are required) official drop boxes spread throughout the county," Brandi Orth, Fresno County Clerk/ Registrar of Voters said via email. "We strongly recommend that voters utilize an official ballot drop box to return their ballot. Ballots are picked up daily by identifiable elections staff in official vehicles.”

Orth's office did not directly answer questions about what would happen to the ballots already collected at unauthorized locations.

Fresno County Republicans said they will remove the boxes that had been placed at party headquarters, a gas station and gun shops, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Ballots will be turned in to county election officials, which was always the plan, said Fred Vanderhoof, chair of the Fresno Republican Party.

A couple stopped at Svensk Butik Gift Shop in Kingsburg, a small city in southern Fresno County, on Monday to drop off their ballots and were turned away, because the shop no longer had a ballot box. Neither they nor the owner of the Swedish gift store in California’s conservative San Joaquin Valley would speak on the record about it.

California GOP won't comply with order on unofficial ballot drop boxes

  California GOP won't comply with order on unofficial ballot drop boxes The California Republican Party said it will not comply with an order from Sacramento remove unofficial ballot drop boxes it has distributed around the state."We are going to continue this program. If he wants to take us to court, then we'll see him court," Hector Barajas, spokesman for the party, told ABC7, referring to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D). In a follow-up letter to Padilla, the California GOP noted that it had distributed similar boxes during the primaries earlier this year "without incident or objection from your office."The standoff comes amid an ongoing feud over the way the California Republican Party is collecting ballots.

In the conservative Ventura County community of Simi Valley, social media users spotted what appeared to be an unofficial ballot box at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and at another site on Cochran Street.

City and Ventura County elections officials both said they had received reports of two unofficial ballots boxes in Simi Valley. No other reports had been received as of early afternoon.

Miranda Nobriga, a spokeswoman for the Ventura County elections division, said her agency was sending out personnel to inspect the reported locations.

Simi Valley Deputy City Manager Samantha Argabrite said that as a result of the reports, the city posted on social media a reminder that there are only five official ballot return boxes in the community and to only drop their ballots at those locations. Residents were also asked to report any other boxes.

Argabrite also said the city planned to send out a news release about where voters could cast ballots. To search for an official ballot drop box location near you, visit https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/

California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks criticized the placement of the unofficial ballot drop boxes.

“Sadly, this is par for the course from the Republican Party — well-versed in making it harder, not easier for Californians to vote,” he said in a statement.

The memo from Padilla's office to county elections officials noted that the state has extensive requirements for the design, use, and security of vote-by-mail ballot drop boxes including:

  • Boxes must be made of durable material able to withstand vandalism, removal, and inclement weather and with specific design and function requirements.
  • Staffed and unstaffed drop boxes must have an opening slot that is not large enough to allow ballots to be tampered with or removed.
  • Drop boxes must have a secure ballot container placed within the drop box that would provide physical evidence if unauthorized access has taken place.
  • Each drop box must use a unique identifying number that is readily identifiable to the designated county ballot retrievers.
  • Each box must be clearly and visibly marked as an “Official Ballot Drop Box” and include all required information in various languages required by state and federal law.
  • Vote-by-mail ballot drop boxes must comply with accessibility requirements.

To track your California ballot from the time it's mailed to you to the time it's received back from you, visit https://california.ballottrax.net/voter/

This article contains reporting from the Associated Press, City News Service, Ventura County Star reporter Cheri Carlson and Visalia Times Delta reporter Joshua Yeager. Follow him on Twitter @VTD_Joshy.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: California GOP admits to owning unofficial ballot drop boxes; officials say they're illegal

2020 Daily Trail Markers: Trump campaign launches ad blitz encouraging vote by mail .
One ad has the headline "VOTE LIKE PRESIDENT TRUMP!" and includes the text, "TIME IS RUNNING OUT! Request your ballot today."The president has for months said without evidence that voting by mail could be tied to widespread fraud and abuse. Palm Beach County election records showed that the president and first lady Melania Trump were mailed ballots at the Mar-a-Lago resort for the Florida August primary. It was not until around that time in early August that the president started claiming voting by mail specifically in Florida was safe.

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