The California attorney general has asked a judge to enforce subpoenas served on the California Republican Party, to order the removal of unofficial ballot drop boxes placed across the state and to turn over the names of voters who used the boxes.
This month, California Republicans arranged unofficial drop boxes in at least three counties outside places of worship and campaign headquarters.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla sent cease and desist letters last week to Republican chairs across the state, demanding the removal of the boxes as well as information on the locations and number of boxes. They also asked the California GOP to return any ballots cast in the unofficial boxes to local election officials.
Republican officials said they would comply, but the threat of legal action has not resulted in the requested information, according to papers filed by Becerra’s office in Sacramento County Superior Court on Tuesday.
“Because the election date is quickly approaching, it is critical that the state ensure that any ballot that was deposited into a drop box is able to be confirmed as having reached a county elections official for counting,” according to the petition.
A California GOP spokesperson said the information will not be turned over.
“This is an abuse of power. The California Republican Party responded and objected to the attorney general’s subpoenas on numerous grounds, including the right to privacy,” said spokesperson Hector Barajas. “We will stand up to this type of authoritarian bullying tactics.”
Republican officials have argued the party has the legal right to harvest ballots under state law, but a few days later the California Republican Party said they would comply.
That didn’t stop some elected Republican officials from taking to social media to defend the unofficial drop boxes.
Representative Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd congressional district, rebuked the action by state election officials.
“Instead of working with us to fix an error that was already quickly resolved, the Democrats that run our state tried to intimidate people of faith and Republicans and suppress their vote,” Calvert tweeted. “We have stood our ground and our legal ballot collections WILL continue.”
The state attorney general served Republican party chairs in three counties with subpoenas demanding information about the number of boxes and who placed their ballots inside them. The California AG’s office set a deadline of Monday at 5 p.m. but the GOP did not budge.
Responding on behalf of the counties and the California GOP, attorney Thomas Hiltachk argued Becerra does not have the “statutory authority to investigate noncriminal activities that are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment” and “regulated under the California Elections Code and by the secretary of state.”
The response led to Tuesday’s petition by Becerra and Padilla.
“Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections,” Becerra said in a statement.
“Our work to ensure that all voters have confidence that their vote will count moves forward. To the extent that unauthorized ballot drop boxes are redeployed, our investigation is ongoing and we will act where necessary. We ask all Californians: if you see something, say something. It’s going to take all of us working together to stand up for our right to vote and ensure a free and fair election.”
Barajas said the California GOP will not turn over the names of voters who attend “religious services, frequent firearms retailers, participate in political events or engage in any other lawful activity.”
— By Nathan Solis, CNS