California's Attorney General and Secretary of State said on Friday that the state's Republic Party is going to back off of using unofficial ballot boxes to collect votes in multiple counties. The announcement comes after Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla sent a cease and desist letter to the California Republican Party following reports of unauthorized drop boxes being operated in Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties. Padilla and Becerra, both Democrats, say the unofficial ballot drop boxes are illegal.
Republican Party leaders on Wednesday said they would not not comply with the order and that the boxes are perfectly legal under a ballot harvesting law passed by the Democratic-controlled California Legislature and signed by then Governor Jerry Brown. Ballot harvesting is the sometimes controversial practice of gathering up votes from people who may be unwilling or unable to go to the polls, a vote center, or their local post office. The practice has been criticized for possibly promoting voter fraud.
The CAGOP admitted to putting the collection boxes in Orange, Fresno and Los Angeles counties. A spokesman denied claims they are illegal and suggested that more of them would made available, especially in districts where there are hotly contested political races.
"Despite their client's rhetoric in the press, we've been in communication with legal counsel for the California Republican Party and they have committed to a number of significant concessions in their ballot collection activities," said Secretary Padilla. "Among other things, they will not make available or condone the use of unstaffed, unsecured unofficial ballot drop boxes. This is an important step in stopping the voter confusion created by their ballot collection activities."
State law governs how the ballot boxes are designed, signage, and how often ballots need to be pulled out and turned over to election officials. The counties are supposed to be in charge of deciding how many boxes are distributed and where they may be placed.
"California will protect the integrity of the vote. We want to give all voters the confidence that their vote will be safeguarded and that it will count on Election Day," said Attorney General Becerra. "We will continue to closely monitor election-related activities across the state to ensure compliance with the law. We are continuing our ongoing investigation and are issuing subpoenas to obtain additional information about ballot collection activities. County elections officials are providing multiple safe, secure methods for voters to return their ballots."
Republican Party officials haven't commented on these most recent statements from Becerra and Padilla.