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.

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.”

But, when Kaehny and others reached out to the L.A. County Recorder/Registrar’s office, they responded on social media, saying: “This is not an official vote by mail drop box and does not comply with [state] regulations for drop boxes.”

“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.

Other posts on the church’s website show it hosting a forum for Republican local candidates and criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. With that in mind, some locals said they are suspicious of what the church’s intentions were with the box.

“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.

Comments (55)
  1. Jesse says:

    Lock That Pastor Up

  2. Walter says:

    It’s time these scam artists start paying taxes.

  3. It was a joke, but he’ll proabably be locked up for criticizing BLM. There was probably no mail slot there anyway, and a coup on the American government is no big deal, nor lying to congress,nor defrauding the FISA court, but making fun of the ridiculous practices which ruin our voting and election confidence is absolutely inexcusable. Ho-hum.

    1. Defensis Prime says:

      You seem dim and in dire need of a buttcheek full o’thorazine to bring you screaming back to reality.

    2. Matt says:

      “It was a joke” Even if that is true (which, yeah, no), it’s totally inappropriate to “joke” about an election by putting out a fake drop box.

    3. Rav says:

      Joke or not, it likely is a violation of federal law. 18 USC 241, 242

      1. citizengeorge says:

        They don’t need no stinkin’ laws. They’r cheatin’ fer Jaysus.

    4. Andi Sandalwood says:

      The stupid is strong in this one. I think someone is off their meds.

    5. Mike F. says:

      Look more closely. There’s a handle at the top of the box for pulling it open, like a mailbox. The only joke is your weak attempt to dismiss this as a joke and deflect by bringing up irrelevencies. And please provide proof that mail in voting is a ridiculous practice “that ruins our voting”. No such evidence exists. Widespread voter fraud has never been shown to occur. Your fevered conspiracy theories about a “coup” also don’t exist. Voting is not a coup. It’s democracy, dummy. Your sociopathic president lies to you 12 times a day. Wake up.

      1. Doctor Fever says:

        Indeed, this GOP-driven pastor has provided hard evidence of voter fraud by falsely asserting that his apparently personal drop box is official. The County Sheriff should immediately dispatch personnel to arrest him.

    6. It’s not a joke. It’s ILLEGAL.

    7. Candide Gunn says:

      No, it is a felony…so far all of the election fraud has been by republicans…we all see it.

  4. Kathryn Hildebrandt says:

    Pastor should be relieved of his non-profit status, pronto.

  5. K says:

    Should be a felony, along the same lines as mail tampering.

  6. citizengeorge says:

    When I went to Sunday School, I learned that “Cheaters never prosper.” I never dreamed a pastor would enable cheating. What would Jesus say to him?

    1. Candide Gunn says:

      Since taking care of the poor and separation of church and state was the reason that churches pay no taxes, it is LONG past time that changes.

      Tens of billions of dollars are collected by churches every year but almost none of that goes to the poor. It is estimated that less than 2% countrywide actually goes to the poor.

      There would be no poverty at all if that money went to the poor.

  7. Pete says:

    That is election fraud. Hopefully he will be prosecuted.

  8. Mike says:

    Pastor Jerry Cook must be held accountable; the box was there for at least four days, Cook promoted on FB to use the drop box, he should be made an example of.

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