On Wednesday, Sacramento judge dealt a blow to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s efforts to investigate those private GOP ballot drop boxes when he refused to order state Republicans to turn over information about the program.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, although Becerra, a Democrat, believes the investigation is essential to determine whether the boxes are legal and to ensure the ballots are properly handled, Judge David I. Brown ruled that the GOP’s refusal to comply with a subpoena seeking information about voters whose ballots have been collected and the location of the boxes poses “no immediate harm or irreparable injury” to the state.
Republicans say a 2016 state law that allows voters to “designate a person” to deliver their completed ballot to an election office makes their program legal, although until this election they had derided that same law as “ballot harvesting.”
Democrats counter that the GOP tactic violates the law because a drop box is not “a person.” The situation has been even murkier because many of the boxes were initially labeled “authorized” or “official.”
In his court filing, Becerra wrote that the drop boxes “caused confusion among voters, prompted complaints from county elections officials alarmed about their use, and raised serious concerns about whether the appropriate chain of custody was being observed for ballots deposited.”
Republicans counter that misleading box signage by “overzealous” volunteers has been removed and, therefore, there is no issue. They have refused to disclose how many private drop boxes there are, or how many ballots have been collected.
“The California Republican Party will continue to help Californians vote safely and securely by continuing to gather ballots in trusted places, and deliver them promptly according to law,” a GOP rep said in a written statement.
The ruling does not prevent Becerra from returning to court to continue challenging the legality of the boxes, and a spokesman for California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in statement Tuesday that complaints about other ballot collection efforts in the state are being investigated, though he didn’t give any specifics.
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