• Rueben Vargas

California GOP can No Longer Use Unofficial Ballot Boxes

An official ballot box in Santa Clarita, CA.

California state officials have announced Friday, Oct. 16th that the state GOP has agreed to no longer deploy their unofficial ballot boxes. In an announcement Friday, State Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated that the state’s Republican Party has agreed “to no longer deploy unstaffed, unsecure, unofficial, and unauthorized ballot drop boxes.” Added Padilla, "The Republican Party's deployment of these unofficial and deceptive drop boxes were in violation of state law and they created voter confusion.”

The announcement comes during a week in which both Padilla and Becerra sent a cease-and-desist order to the state GOP after reports were made of the unofficial dropoff boxes. The ballot boxes were seen in LA, Orange, Ventura, and Fresno counties where they were installed outside of strategic locations such as gun stores and churches where conservative voters were more likely to congregate. State GOP officials announced they would openly defy the order on October 15th, sparking another instance in a long-running state conflict over the issue of “ballot harvesting”.

California is one of 26 states in which a voter may designate someone else to deliver their mail-in ballot. The 2017 law has been upheld as recently as May of this year when a senate committee rejected a measure to eliminate the practice. Campaigns across the state have used this law to their advantage in “Get Out The Vote” initiatives in which volunteers will canvas neighborhoods and offer to deliver ballots for voters. This convenience allows voters who are otherwise occupied with work or other obligations to ensure their mail-in-ballots are delivered securely and quickly. It’s also become a necessity given the very real risk of exposure to the Cornoavirus through in-person voting. The pandemic has also amplified ongoing issues with voter disenfranchisement-as POC communities are disproportionately affected by both the pandemic and face higher difficulty exercising their right to vote.

So successful is the practice that California Democrats won several contested seats across the state during the previous midterm. In response, National Republican Congressional Committee chair Rep. Tom Emmer wrote a report calling for the CA GOP to use “ballot harvesting” to their advantage. The ballot boxes are a clear Republican response to successful ballot collecting efforts by the Democratic party in California. The ongoing brouhaha over “ballot harvesting” is also a component over a larger political battle over absentee and mail-in voting. During the recent debate, Trump repeatedly made baseless and false claims about fraud in mail-in-voting. Despite the President’s open hostility, the GOP has been promoting vote-by-mail in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Ohio.

“It’s pretty clear that Democrats only care about ballot harvesting when someone else is doing it,” said California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Milan Patterson during the tumultuous week. She also told reporters Friday that California officials didn’t bother learning the facts before accusing them of wrongdoing: “They want to do anything to confuse voters and our supporters, and let our detractors describe our efforts as criminal.”