By Andria Borba

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – After revelations that unofficial ballot boxes were showing up in California, election experts are warning it may be illegal.

At the Voting Center near San Francisco’s Civic Center, Gonzalo Mannucci dropped off his spouse’s 2020 ballot on Tuesday.

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“They had to sign giving me authorization to let me drop off their ballot,” Mannucci said.

That is how California’s 2016 ballot harvesting law is supposed to work.

California’s Republican Party said in a statement to KPIX5, that three unofficial ballot drop boxes, all marked as official, discovered earlier this week in Orange, Los Angeles and Fresno counties are designed to harvest ballots.

UC Berkeley law professor Bertrall Ross says that claim falls into a legal gray area.

“To the extent that these ballots are not signed by an individual or person who is trying to vote, then they run afoul of the law,” Ross said via Zoom.

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He says the non-county sponsored ballot drop boxes do not fall into any legal gray area.

“You set up these unofficial ballot boxes it raises a whole host of security concerns. You don’t know who has access to these boxes, you don’t know if they’re secure or where they are located, so labelling an unofficial ballot box as official is certainly against California law.”

The penalty for setting up an unofficial ballot drop box in the Golden State is 2 to 4 years in prison, if convicted.

The concern over the three GOP sponsored faux ballot drop boxes caused so much concern Sonoma County sent out an alert with pictures of what the official boxes do look like.

“I don’t know if they think they are trying to be helpful, but if that’s the case they should be checking with the election administrators in each jurisdiction to make sure it’s okay before they do and they would be told it’s not, it’s not okay,” said Wendy Hudson, Chief Deputy Registrar for Sonoma County.

Hudson does have this important tip for anyone looking to legally harvest a ballot and drop it at a county box — beyond the signature verification.

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“That person has 72 hours to get the ballot to our office or before the deadline, whichever comes first.”