California Ballot Drop Box Set On Fire Potentially Destroying Dozens Of Votes, Arson Probe Launched

Arson investigators have launched a probe into a fire that erupted inside a ballot drop box in California over the weekend, possibly compromising dozens of votes.

Several completed ballots were destroyed after the blaze broke out at around 8 p.m. on Sunday evening in front of Baldwin Park's public library in Los Angeles County.

It was not immediately clear how the fire was sparked, but firefighters suggested someone appeared to have purposely tossed burning newspaper into the drop box, local media reported.

Fire crews tasked with responding to the blaze were reportedly forced to insert a hose into the box's slot to put the fire out.

They later used a chainsaw to cut the drop box open and remove the incinerated ballot papers. Police then took the damaged voting slips.

Arson investigators did not immediately release information about how many ballots were destroyed amid their ongoing investigation into the incident.

The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder's Office has been asked for comment on what the process will be to find voters who may have had ballots affected by the fire.

News of the blaze came after controversy broke out in recent weeks over the appearance of several Republican Party-furnished ballot drop boxes in several areas, including Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties.

Republican Party officials have since acknowledged erecting an unspecified number of the party-furnished boxes, which they said were placed inside churches, party campaign offices, gun shops and firing ranges, among other venues.

California's top elections official, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, last week demanded removal of the "unauthorized and non-official" vote-by-mail ballot boxes set up by the party.

Padilla and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, both Democrats, said Republican officials had until Thursday to pull the boxes or face legal action, including possible prosecution.

On Friday, Padila confirmed the state Republican Party had removed the drop boxes, adding that subpoeans were being issued in a bid to gather more information in line with the state attorney general looking into possible election law violations.

Republican officials meanwhile stated they would press ahead with using dozens of other drop boxes not improperly labeled "official" that had been sent to various counties to collect ballots.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra refused to be drawn on whether the party's plan to keep using the boxes was legal.

"We may be told one thing in person or we may hear or receive reports of activities but until we get evidence of it we have to assume everyone is trying to comply with the law," Becerra told reporters.