This sounds like more of a nothingburger than any sort of constitutional crisis, but if nothing else it may be good for a laugh. Out in California, the battle over mail-in ballots and collection boxes is raging as it is across much of the country. But in the Golden State, Republicans have added a twist to the story. They’ve taken to distributing their own drop boxes in locations including churches and gun shops. These collection boxes are not produced or placed by state election officials, so the Democrats in charge of the state are complaining loudly, claiming that the boxes are illegal. But at least thus far, the GOP is basically telling them to pound sand. (Associated Press)
California’s chief elections official on Monday ordered Republicans to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes from churches, gun shops and other locations and Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned those behind the “vote tampering” could face prosecution.
Republicans refused, saying they are taking advantage of California’s liberal ballot collection law that allows anyone to collect ballots from voters and deliver them to county election offices.
“As of right now, we’re going to continue our ballot harvesting program,” California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas said.
Due to the coronavirus and concerns about health safety at polling places, California for the first time mailed ballots for the Nov. 3 election to all active registered voters — more than 21 million people. The ballots come with pre-paid envelopes for voters to mail back, free of charge.
Both the state’s Attorney General and Secretary of State (both Democrats) are talking about potentially prosecuting any Republicans setting up these boxes. Alex Padilla sent out a letter “ordering” them to remove the boxes by Thursday and to further supply election officials with a list of the names and birthdays of any voters who may have already submitted their ballots using the boxes.
The fact that the Republicans are refusing indicates that they’ve already looked into the applicable laws and know they are in the clear. And from the sound of it, the Democrats may have hung themselves out to dry by passing a flurry of laws designed to make it “as easy as possible” for people to vote. They specifically legalized ballot harvesting, allowing voters to ask anyone else to return their ballot for them if they can’t or won’t do it themselves. There is no provision saying how the ballot must be collected, stored or transported once the voter has turned it over.
Previously, anyone choosing to do this would have to have the person harvesting the ballot sign the envelope and state their relationship to the voter. But in 2018, the Democrats stripped that provision out. Under those rules (or lack of rules in this case), the voter can “ask” the people hosting the collection boxes to submit the ballots for them by dropping them in the designated boxes.
So the Democrats are spitting mad, but as one state GOP spokesperson put it, the Democrats appear to be all in favor of ballot harvesting until somebody else wants to do it. The Attorney General is threatening to prosecute “anyone who knowingly engages in the tampering or misuse of a vote.” That’s certainly something he should do if they actually find people engaged in such illegal activity. But in California, as I mentioned above, anyone can take the sealed ballot of another voter who asks them to and transport it to the appropriate destination. That’s not tampering or misuse. It’s just playing by the rules that the Democrats themselves established.
The temper tantrum currently being thrown by California Democrats is amusing to behold. But the reality is that they made this bed and now they’re going to need to sleep in it.