President Donald Trump and other GOPers have long blasted the practice of “vote harvesting,” the collection of ballots by third parties that’s banned in many states, when Democrats have done it. So it comes as a surprise — actually it doesn’t since it’s just one more example of hypocrisy — that the California Republican Party now admits it placed misleading ballot boxes and will keep doing it. The California government has told them to cease and desist.
The California Republican Party has admitted responsibility for placing more than 50 deceptively labeled “official” drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange Counties — an action that state officials said was illegal and could lead to voter fraud.
The dark gray metal boxes have been popping up over the past two weeks near churches, gun shops and Republican Party offices, mostly in conservative areas of a deep-blue state, affixed with a white paper label identifying them as either an “Official Ballot Drop off Box” or a “Ballot Drop Box.”
To the average voter, they are virtually indistinguishable from drop-off sites sanctioned by the state, which are governed by strict regulations intended to prevent the partisan manipulation of ballots.
The actions of the largely marginalized state party come at a moment when Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a bitter national struggle over voting rights, with President Trump’s allies accusing Democrats in Minnesota and elsewhere of undermining the integrity of the electoral process by expanding absentee voting and other measures to increase ballot access.
On Monday, California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a cease-and-desist order to the state- and county-level Republican parties, ordering them to remove the boxes. They also urged voters who might have unknowingly dropped off their ballots in the receptacles to sign up with the state’s voter tracking website to ensure their vote is counted.
…Mr. Becerra called the boxes “fake,” adding that it was “illegal to tamper with a citizen’s vote.” He warned that anyone “engaging in this activity” could be subject to criminal prosecution or civil action.
Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said the party would continue to distribute the boxes, without adding any label identifying them explicitly as Republican ballot drops.
Mr. Barajas — who disclosed that Republicans were responsible for the boxes only after being bombarded by questions by reporters on Monday — said the party’s actions were legal because state law did not restrict “ballot harvesting,” a practice that allows a third party to collect voters’ completed ballots.
Mr. Trump and his supporters have decried the practice as corrupt when Democrats have been accused of collecting bundles of ballots, which is legal in 26 states but subject to verification requirements.
Ah, finally a verified case of coordinated, illegal activity around an election and it's being carried out by…the Republican Party of California. https://t.co/3wKp4Yuv0G
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 13, 2020
The California Republican Party, Fresno County Republican Party, Los Angeles County Republican Party, and Republican Party of Orange County must cease and desist the coordination, use, or false or misleading promotion of unauthorized and non-official vote by mail drop boxes.
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) October 12, 2020
The California Republican Party admitted to planting fake ballot boxes, and refuses to remove them. https://t.co/Rue7gNH0i4
— VICE News (@VICENews) October 13, 2020
The GOP is nothing more than a criminal enterprise and should be tried on RICO charges. What else can you say in response to CA GOP installing fake ballot boxes to steal ballots from voters? @realDonaldTrump
— NoelCaslerComedy (@CaslerNoel) October 13, 2020
?? ICYMI: “The California Republican Party placed more than 50 deceptively labeled ‘official’ drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange Counties — an action that state officials said was illegal and could lead to voter fraud.” https://t.co/ytkMhZXhAF
— Katie Phang (@KatiePhang) October 13, 2020