CASTAIC (CBSLA) — Shannon Kaehny first spotted it on Facebook: a grey metal container with a taped sign that read “Official Ballot Drop Box” outside of Freedom’s Way Baptist Church.
The pastor, Jerry Cook, had posted the photo with the caption “Our church has a voting drop box in front of our complex — if you are voting early, drop your ballot on by.”
“Oh, it was insane!” Kaehny said. “I can’t imagine in what world that you would think that that’s acceptable.”
The registrar’s office told KCAL9 they are trying to reach Pastor Cook and are working with counsel to issue a cease and desist letter. However, the drop box is already gone.
“If you believe in your candidate, there’s no reason to try to fudge with the election at all,” Kaehny said. “It’s an attack on democracy, it’s not ok, and it pissed me off.”
“It was up for like four days before I even saw it, before it kinda started getting traction, so I’m really worried that somebody put their ballot in there and that he saw it was for a certain candidate or saw whatever and just tore it up and threw it away,” said Matthew Judge.
KCAL9 made numerous attempts to reach Pastor Cook by phone, social media, and email to find out whether he knew the drop box was not in compliance and what he’s done with any ballots that were dropped off. He has not responded as of publication.
It is unclear what further action that election officials might take against the church and pastor beyond telling him to remove the box.
“This is far less than ideal in a a far less than ideal election when we are desperately trying to tell people that they can trust the election systems, where we’re telling people if you don’t trust the mail, then use an official ballot drop box,” said Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson. “And now we have a church using what looks like a filing cabinet and saying it’s an official ballot drop box when it’s not. This does not do good things for people’s trust in our elections.”
Anyone wanting to vote using the ballot mailed to them can drop it off at one of the 400 secure ballot drop boxes in L.A. County. The locations of each box can be found online. Everyone can track their ballots all the way until it has been counted by signing up for “Where’s My Ballot?” on the Secretary of State’s website.