California officials sent the state Republican Party a cease-and-desist notice to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes. The controversy comes as the two major parties feud over how the November election is being conducted during the pandemic. If the California GOP doesn’t comply with the cease-and-desist from Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra by Thursday, the party could be prosecuted. A Republican spokesperson said the party would continue to collect ballots with drop boxes. Third-party collection of ballots is legal in California if a voter signs the outside of their ballot to authorize someone else to return it for them. State Democrats did it on a mass scale in the 2018 midterms by organizing volunteers to pick up ballots from voters, an effort Republicans called “ballot harvesting,” Politico reports.
President Donald Trump has derided the practice as fraudulent and used it as one example to sow doubt about the integrity of elections this year. Padilla and Becerra said Monday that the California GOP’s placement of unauthorized drop boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties is different from Democratic efforts because the voter assumes their ballot will be delivered via an official-looking mechanism — all without signing their ballots. Becerra said. “It is illegal, but more than just illegal, it is irresponsible to tamper with a citizen’s vote.” GOP spokesperson Hector Barajas argued that the drop boxes are the same as in-person ballot collection, saying, “In California, where you can have convicted felons and individuals with a criminal history go door-to-door and collect ballots from voters, Democrats are now upset because organizations, individuals and groups are offering an opportunity for their friends, family, and patrons to drop off their ballot with someone they know and trust.”