California officials have subpoenaed the Republican Party for further information in their use of unofficial ballot drop boxes, state officials announced Friday.
Questions regarding the scope and practices of the GOP’s ballot collection operation remain outstanding, which is why subpoenas have been issued, state Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday in a news conference.
“That is why the attorney general is issuing subpoenas to compel further information,” Padilla said in a statement. “Reports of unofficial drop boxes in counties in addition to Fresno, Los Angeles, and Orange, and the (California Republican Party’s) refusal to answer basic questions around the location and amount of misleading ballot drop boxes is problematic.”
State officials said an investigation is ongoing and said registered voters have “full control” over how to return their ballots, highlighting that safe options include dropping them off at official drop boxes, delivering them at polling locations or county elections offices, or trusting someone to return one’s ballot.
The Republican Party has stated that the use of the boxes is comparable to Democrats partaking in the state’s law governing ballot harvesting, which allows third parties to collect and deliver ballots.
“The Democrat anger is overblown when state law allows organizations, volunteers or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and drop them off at polling places or election offices,” California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas previously stated.
Padilla said the GOP can engage in ballot collection “but they have to play by the rules.”
“If they want to continue ballot collection activity, that is allowed in California but they must abide by the state law surrounding ballot collection programs,” he said.
State law requires that anyone who is collecting and returning a voter’s ballot must add their name, signature and relationship to the voter on a return envelope.
The Republican Party, which has indicated it plans to continue use of the drop boxes, has pledged to: secure the ballots in a locked box until they are delivered to election officials within the required 72-hour timeframe and ensure that the boxes are attended at all times during access hours.
“The Republican Party is ensuring that those measures are being taken, and that is fine, because what’s ultimately important is that voters not be misled … that they make an informed choice as to how to return their ballots,” said Padilla.
After the news conference, Barajas issued the followed statement:
“The secretary of state and the attorney general didn’t know the facts and didn’t bother to learn them before accusing us on Monday. 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.’”
Friday’s call for subpoenas comes after Padilla and Becerra sent the GOP cease-and-desist letters to halt the use of the boxes that bore “misleading” signs.
Among the drop boxes in multiple counties, one was located outside Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Castaic with a sign that read “Official Ballot Drop Box.” It has since been removed.