California GOP Refuses to Remove Unofficial Ballot Drop-Off Boxes

The California Republican party is refusing to remove unauthorized mail-in ballot drop boxes despite the state ordering them to cease and desist.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent Republicans an order to cease and desist operation of the unofficial drop boxes, some of which were marked "official," on Monday. GOP officials claim that the boxes do not violate the law, are refusing to comply with the order and say they hope to add more boxes.

"We are going to continue this program," California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told WABC. "If he [Padilla] wants to take us to court, then we'll see him in court."

In addition to removing the drop boxes, the cease and desist letter also ordered Republicans to provide election officials with the names, addresses and birthdays of voters who had already dropped off ballots "by close of business" on Thursday. The letter warned that Padilla and Becerra were prepared to "enforce state law, should it become necessary."

California Republican Party General Counsel Tom Hiltachk insisted that the boxes are not illegal when speaking to reporters on Wednesday, while adding that falsely labeling some of the boxes as "official" was "an unfortunate error that was caught quickly" and had been the work of "an overzealous volunteer."

Official ballot drop boxes in California are installed by election officials and are defined as "secure receptacles" that adhere to security regulations. California law also allows voters to designate another person to deliver their ballot on their behalf, but voters are required to be aware and approve of a specific person delivering the ballot.

The offices of Padilla and Becerra both told Newsweek that the GOP's written response to their cease and desist letter was being reviewed as of Wednesday evening.

Although mail-in ballots have been used without significant controversy for decades, they have become a partisan issue in 2020. President Donald Trump has repeatedly made evidence-free claims that voting by mail is rife with widespread fraud.

An analysis published in June by The Washington Post found that only 372 out of 14.6 million mail-in ballots were identified as being possibly, but not certainly, fraudulent in the 2016 and 2018 elections—a rate of just 0.0025 percent.

The president has also recently made comments that appear to encourage Republicans to commit voter fraud. During a September campaign rally in North Carolina, he suggested that his supporters should attempt to vote twice, once by mail and once in person.

Trump tweeted in support of the unauthorized drop boxes on Tuesday, falsely claiming that California Democrats are also installing their own unofficial drop boxes while urging Republicans to "fight hard" by potentially breaking state election law.

"You mean only Democrats are allowed to do this?" Trump tweeted. "But haven't the Dems been doing this for years? See you in court. Fight hard Republicans!"

Becerra tweeted in response to the president, telling voters to "obey the law" instead of politicians and adding that "the last person who should be providing legal advice is the guy who lost to California in court over and over."

California Ballot Drop Box
Voters approach an official ballot drop box in Santa Ana, California on October 13, 2020. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty