LOS ANGELES, CA — Several metal ballot boxes marked "official" were planted at places of worship throughout Los Angeles County over the weekend by the California GOP. These boxes are not only unofficial, they're illegal, the state said Sunday.
A "questionable" ballot box was removed from outside Freedom’s Way Baptist Church over the weekend in Castaic, Fox LA reported.
These unauthorized and illegal ballot boxes were reported in locations including political party offices, candidate headquarters and churches across the state, according to multiple reports.
Pastor Jerry Cook of Freedom’s Way Baptist Church invited churchgoers to drop their ballots off in front of the church in a Facebook post over the weekend. Dozens have since taken to the church's Facebook page to condemn Cook for encouraging voters to use the unofficial box.
Cook did not immediately responded to Patch for comment. According to Fox LA, Cook was confident the box was official.
The California Republican Party has admitted to planting some of these unofficial boxes throughout Southern California, and tweeted their defense, claiming that the boxes were legal under a 2016 law that allows voters to designate someone to turn in their ballot for them.
But these ballot boxes were left unattended.
Placing or fraudulently advertising any unofficial ballot drop box could result in a felony that carries a two to four year sentence, Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office announced Sunday.
"That was so pre-2016." The California GOP Tweeted Sunday. "Passage of AB 1921: ‘volunteers or campaign workers can collect completed ballots and drop them off en masse at polling places or election offices.’"
This practice is commonly called "ballot harvesting," and was previously condemned by Republican leaders.
SEE ALSO: Fake Ballot Drop Boxes Alarm OC Voters
The California GOP sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over the practice earlier this year when Democratic campaign workers went door-to-door collecting ballots. The party alleged that the action conflicted with the COVID-19 stay-at-home order in April.
“If a congregation/business or other group provides the option to its parishioners/associates/ or colleagues to drop off their ballot in a safe location, with people they trust, rather than handing it over to a stranger who knocks on their door — what is wrong with that?” the California GOP also tweeted Sunday.
In past elections, California Democrats have also held "ballot parties," where voters would fill out a mail-in ballot and leave them with a designated volunteer to turn in massive stacks of ballots at once.
But Padilla's office said that the unofficial boxes placed by the GOP are illegal because the 2016 law requires a voter to designate a specific person to return the ballot.
The individual must be "a person to whom a voter entrusts their vote-by-mail ballot to return to the county elections official must include their signature on the return vote-by-mail envelope as a the person authorized to return the ballot," Padilla's office said Sunday.
The entrusted ballot handler is also required to provide their name and state their relationship to the voter.
Over the weekend, additional reports were made to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk that churches around the county had unofficial ballot drop boxes on their properties, Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the LA County Registrar-Recorder told Patch.
These boxes were identified as an "official drop box."
"To be clear, they are not official County Drop Box," Sanchez said in an email to Patch. "The drop boxes identified at these places of worship do not comply with regulations for Ballot Drop Boxes."
The LA County Registrar has attempted to reach out to these locations and were working with counsel to issue a cease and desist letter.
"Additionally, we have reported this to the Secretary of State’s Office." Sanchez said.
Many of these boxes, spotted around Los Angeles and Orange counties, were falsely marked "official," with some unattended. Padilla's office states that unstaffed drop boxes must also have an opening slot that is "not large enough to allow ballots to be tampered with or removed."
The California GOP did not immediately respond to Patch for comment.
Jordan Tygh, regional field director for the California GOP tweeted a photo of himself next to the unofficial ballot box that was fraudulently labeled "official." Later, the tweet was deleted.
“Doing my part and voting early,” Tygh wrote in the now-deleted tweet. “DM me for convenient locations to drop your ballot off at!”
The National Republican Congressional Committee also jumped into the ring on Twitter Tuesday to defend the fraudulent ballot boxes.
The tweet suggested that Democrats were "...only ok with ballot harvesting when it’s the Democrats ballot harvesting."