SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — The California Republican Party Wednesday defended its use of unofficial ballot boxes in places like churches and campaign offices, despite an order from the California Secretary of State’s Office to remove them by Thursday.
During a call with GOP leaders, one attorney acknowledged that the use of the term “official” on a box in Newport Beach was “overzealous.” He said the sign has since been removed.
And, according to Republican Party lawyer Tom Hiltachk, the collection of ballots in this manner was legal.
“It is our belief that placing such a ballot in a secure location until that ballot can be delivered, usually the next day, to the appropriate elections official is the appropriate way to deal with a ballot provided by a voter,” he said.
But, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, said that in order for the collection of ballots to be legal under the state’s ballot harvesting law, ballots must be handed to a person and not placed into a box.
“Not a problem as long as you hand it to that individual, because that individual has a responsibility to protect those ballots, keep the custody of the ballots and they can put them in a bag a box it doesn’t matter, right,” he said. “They have that obligation to get them back to my office.”
Kelley has previously said unmanned unofficial drop boxes are prohibited and suggested voters use official ballot boxes placed throughout the county.
“I came today to vote in person so that my vote would be counted for sure,” Felicia LaTonya Hunt, a voter, said while dropping her ballot at an official box in Anaheim.
Lolita Diaz, another voter, also said it was important for her to make sure her ballot was counted by placing it in an official ballot drop box.
“You can’t just trust anybody right now,” she said. “These are precious right now, so we’ve got to vote.”
But it’s not just the possible legal issues facing the unofficial ballot drop boxes that has Claremont McKenna professor of politics Jack Pitney concerned about them.
“If you have one of these boxes that’s not necessarily as secure as the official drop box, ballots can be lost, they can be tampered with, all kinds of things can happen,” he said.
A list of official Orange County ballot drop boxes can be found online. Those wishing to track their ballot can do so by signing up online for the Where’s My Ballot service offered through the California Secretary of State’s Office.