Elections officials in California have launched an investigation into unofficial ballot drop boxes that popped up across the state, saying they do not comply with state law and may in fact constitute a felony.
“Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes — especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes — is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement Monday.
The unofficial vote-by-mail drop boxes were reported in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties over the weekend and may be tied to the California GOP.
Labeling on the boxes varied, according to social media reports, with some called “official ballot drop off boxes” and others that simply said “ballot drop off.”
One of the unofficial boxes appeared in front of a church in Castaic last week according to social media posts. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Freedom’s Way Baptist Church pastor Jerry Cook posted a photo of the box and wrote, “Our church has a voting drop box in front of our complex — if you are voting early, drop your ballot on by.”
Cook did not respond to an email seeking comment by press time.
In a now-deleted tweet, California GOP regional field director Jordan Tygh posted a photo of himself with a ballot next to one of the unofficial ballot boxes and encouraged people to contact him for locations. Tygh and the California GOP did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.
Padilla’s office said anyone who sets up a vote-by-mail ballot drop box could face felony charges. Only county election officials can designate ballot drop-off locations, the office said.
“It’s unclear how many voters may have used these unofficial drop boxes (or exactly how many were placed),” Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said in a statement, adding his office has reported social media posts to Padilla’s office and the district attorney.
“I can’t comment on any potential or open investigations,” Kelley said.
The California GOP has not issued an official statement on the matter. But over the weekend, the person running its Twitter account tweeted: “If a congregation/business or other group provides the option to its parishioners/associates/or colleagues to drop off their ballot in a safe location, with people they trust, rather than handing it over to a stranger who knocks on their door — what is wrong with that?”
Official ballot boxes in California are bright yellow and are built of “durable material able to withstand vandalism, removal, and inclement weather and with specific design and function requirements,” according to Padilla’s office.
— By Nathan Solis, CNS