The Republican Party in California has locked horns with state authorities, saying it will defy a cease-and-desist order to remove unauthorized ballot boxes it has put up in three counties across the state.
A spokesman for the party argues the boxes — placed over the weekend at conservative churches, gun shops and other locations in Los Angeles County, Orange County and Fresno County– simply amount to “ballot harvesting,” which allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots in some US states.
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“We’re going to continue our ballot harvesting programs,” California Republican Party spokesperson Hector Barajas told the local CBS station on Monday.
However, state authorities say the drop boxes, some of which are labeled “official,” are misleading and have given the Republican Party until Thursday to remove them.
“Misleading voters is wrong, regardless of who is doing it,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a statement.
“Political parties and campaigns can engage in get out the vote efforts, but they cannot violate state law,” he added. “The unofficial, unauthorized drop boxes in question violate state law and jeopardize the security of voters’ ballots.
“These unauthorized drop boxes are a disservice to elections administrators and a disservice to voters who deserve to cast their ballots with clarity and confidence.”
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned of civil or criminal punishment if Republicans fail to remove the boxes.
“We’re getting some disturbing reports that perhaps some Republican Party officials in the state where these fake drop boxes have been situated may not be prepared or willing to remove these drop boxes,” Becerra said.
“We hope the message goes out loud and clear that anyone who improperly solicits or manages a citizen’s vote is subject to prosecution for engaging in activities that are against the law in the state of California.
“I’m trying to be careful how I say this but the reports we’re hearing are disturbing.”
Barajas, however, appeared unmoved by the threats of legal action, telling CBS that while the party would remove the word “official” from the boxes, it would not remove the drop boxes themselves.
“Show us within the law, where we should stop,” he said. “Tell us within the law, where we’re breaking the law.”
The showdown comes three weeks before the US presidential election as America grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 215,000 people in this country.