OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The California GOP can harvest ballots using their unofficial boxes, according to state voting officials who claim that the Republicans committed to making changes demanded by the state.
At a press conference Friday morning, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the state’s decision to allow the GOP to use the ballot boxes, after calling them illegal earlier this week.
“Despite their client’s rhetoric in the press, we’ve been in communication with legal counsel for the California Republican Party and they have committed to a number of significant concessions in their ballot collection activities,” Padilla said in a statement.
The state GOP’s deployment of their own ballot boxes in southern California drew considerable attention earlier this week, with Republicans claiming that they were legal because the state has allowed ballot harvesting since 2018.
Once a voter fills out a ballot, anyone can return it. Most people mail them in prepaid envelopes provided by their county election offices, but others use official ballot drop boxes distributed throughout the county.
Becerra still sent a cease-and-desist letter to Republicans over the boxes as some had been marked “official” — a mistake GOP general counsel Tom Hiltachk attributed to “perhaps an overzealous volunteer” on Wednesday. Besides that, Hiltachk insisted the boxes were legal.
“The fact that it is a box does not make it illegal,” Hiltachk said. “If we have to use a bag, then we’ll use a bag.”
Still, the GOP and the State came to an agreement. Among the concessions the state GOP made, the party agreed not to declare the boxes “official” and to staff them whenever the public could access them. Also, they promised to return the ballots within a 72-hour period.
“This is an important step in stopping the voter confusion created by their ballot collection activities,” Padilla said.
GOP officials declared the state’s announcement to be vindication for their tactics.
“The Secretary of State and Attorney General didn’t know the facts and didn’t bother to learn them before accusing us on Monday,” Hector Barajas, spokesman for the California Republican Party, said in a statement issued Friday. “We can’t agree to not do something we weren’t doing to begin with. They could have shortened this press conference by simply saying ‘Sorry.’”
Yet Becerra hinted that the issue hasn’t been completely settled in his statement Friday.
“California will protect the integrity of the vote,” Becerra said. “We are continuing our ongoing investigation and are issuing subpoenas to obtain additional information about ballot collection activities.”