On Monday, October 12th, California state officials mandated an immediate cease-and-desist order to members of the Republican party, after unauthorized ballot boxes began to appear in Southern California cities.
According to the Washington Post, California GOP officials placed these unofficial boxes and encouraged people in the state to deliver ballots to these sites. The grey, metal containers started popping up in Orange County, Fresno, and the Los Angeles area in the weeks leading up to October 12th. They were mostly located around gun shops, churches, and Republican party offices, and had signs on them reading “Official Ballot Drop Off Box,” reported the New York Times.
The California state legislature has recently disclosed their planned punishment: if the Republican party does not reveal the names and information of the people who were victimized by the fake boxes, the state is ready to enforce the penalties outlined by state law. California Cal Elec Code § 18564.5 specifically prohibits the act of tampering with elections or materials regarding electoral voting. The penalty is up to a $50,000 fine and 2-4 years of jail time. The order sent to GOP members asked them to remove the unofficial boxes, and reminded members that placing these boxes is illegal and punishable by law.
Jordan Tygh, a leading member of the California Republican Party, released a—recently deleted—tweet including a picture of him with an unofficial ballot box. Tygh’s twitter advertisement of the illegal boxes qualifies him for two to four years in jail.
“Doing my part and voting early […] DM me for convenient locations to drop your ballot off at,” Tygh tweeted.
To combat the fake ballot boxes, California has issued a state wide memo detailing where official ballot drop offs are located, and reminding voters to report any suspicious activity. The Orange County district attorney also launched a criminal investigation into the appearance of two illegal ballot boxes in the county, reported The Guardian.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement regarding the tampering of ballot boxes and what was being done to combat the issue.
“Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections. As part of that and pursuant to our statutory authority, we issued subpoenas and interrogatories to determine the extent to which the deployment of unauthorized ballot drop boxes may have impacted Californians,” Becerra emphasized.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also noted in a press conference on the 12th that only county election officials are allowed to set up boxes, and that the immorality of the crime affects not only voters, but other government officials as well.
“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,” Padilla stated.
On Friday, October 16th, the original heat that the California legislator brought upon the GOP lessened. The Republican party agreed to stop labeling the boxes as “official”. They argued that their actions are legal due to loosened collection requirements approved in 2018, which allows ballots to be collected through the use of ballot boxes. The people who originally set up these boxes also agreed to follow the 72 hour required delivery frame, and promised to secure and safely deliver the filled-out ballots.
California officials are urging eligible voters during the 2020 election not to be deterred by these boxes, but rather to go out and vote with caution. They ask mail-in voters to search up official drop-off sites, or visit the post office instead. Whether or not these boxes are permanently removed before November third is still unclear, but the Republican party has agreed to comply with state laws regarding the security of ballots and voting.