SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday sought a court order to force state Republican officials to turn over information about the party’s use of private drop boxes for collecting ballots in a handful of counties across the state.
Leaders of the California Republican Party have insisted the program has followed all applicable rules and regulations and have accused both Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla of a partisan investigation.
Last week, Republicans and the two Democratic state officials criticized each other in a series of dueling public statements over the GOP‘s distribution of metal containers to party offices, churches and private businesses where voters could deposit their completed ballots.
California election law allows voters to “designate a person” to collect and return a ballot, but it only mentions drop boxes operated by county elections officials. Social media postings earlier this month showed some receptacles were labeled “official drop box,” prompting state elections officials to send a cease and desist letter to Republicans demanding the removal of the signs.
“Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections,” Becerra said in a written statement. “As part of that and pursuant to our statutory authority, we issued subpoenas and interrogatories to determine the extent to which the deployment of unauthorized ballot drop boxes may have impacted Californians.”
Becerra’s complaint, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, said that state and local Republican Party officials have not complied with a subpoena to turn over the names and addresses of the voters whose ballots were collected or information about the total number of boxes that were distributed by the GOP.
The location of the drop boxes, the complaint says, is important “to ensure that any ballot collection activity that may still be occurring at those sites comports with state law.”
The complaint alleges several examples of the drop boxes being promoted as either “authorized” or “official.” State GOP officials said last week that the labels were the work of “overzealous” local volunteers and that they were quickly discontinued.
Becerra’s court filing notes that state officials still don’t know how many ballots were placed in the Republican receptacles prior to the effort to demand changes to the collection program. The filing notes that the owner of a smog check shop in Clovis, where one box was placed, told state investigators that approximately 25 ballots had been delivered there.
Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said the request for voter information is unwarranted and the party won’t comply.
“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,” he said in an emailed statement. “We will stand up to this type of authoritarian bullying tactics.”
Almost 4 million California voters have already returned their ballots to county elections offices across the state. Local elections officials in most communities have deployed bulky drop boxes that follow a set of state guidelines. The boxes, which must be emptied daily by local elections workers who follow strict rules regarding the custody of the ballots, will be in place for voters to use through Election Day.
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