California Republicans are allegedly setting up fake 'official' drop-off boxes to harvest ballots

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office has received complaints about what appear to be unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Los Angeles, Orange, and Fresno counties, and it appears from social media posts that California Republicans have set them up to collect ballots, The Orange County Register reported Sunday night. The metal boxes, which purport to be "official," have been reported at local political party offices, churches, and headquarters for GOP candidates.

"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," Padilla said, and a felony conviction would land perpetrators in prison for two to four years. County elections officials and registrars are solely empowered to set up and maintain drop boxes in accordance with strict state security rules.

The California Republican Party did not respond to the Register's requests for comments, nor did individual GOP operatives who have implicated themselves on social media. But the state GOP has "been defending the practice in replies on Twitter, alleging the process was made legal under a 2016 law that allows California voters to designate a person to return their ballot for them," the Register reports. "The GOP calls the practice 'ballot harvesting' and blames it for losses to the Democrats in OC and other places in 2018." State officials say unauthorized drop boxes would violate that law since there's no designated person to sign for the ballot, as required.

Slate judiciary staff writer Mark Joseph Stern sees something a little more nefarious than just trying to make it more convenient for Republicans to vote. "California Republicans are allegedly creating fake drop boxes and tricking voters into depositing their ballots in them," he tweeted. "Apparently they're trying to prove voter fraud is real by committing actual election fraud."

Republicans in Texas, Ohio, and other states are currently fighting to limit ballot drop boxes to one per county. Republicans in Southern California are trying to win back a slate of congressional seats they lost in the 2018 midterms. And if they are using fake official drop boxes, they are breaking the law, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said Sunday. "It would be like me installing a mailbox out on the corner — the post office is the one that installs mailboxes." Read more at The Orange County Register.

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