Hidden Video Shows California GOP’s Dubious Ballot Harvesting in Action in Orange County

As Trump decries third-party ballot collection, the local Republican party is doubling down

In recent weeks, the California GOP has become a sudden and fervent proponent of third-party ballot collection—unfortunately, the way they’re going about it is sketchy at best.

As Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP have continued to decry efforts to “harvest” ballots, which they’ve framed as some secretive Democratic plot to steal the election, the state branch of the Republican party broke ranks and decided to embrace the practice by placing unauthorized ballot boxes at gun shops, churches, in retirement communities, and other locations throughout the state.

In hidden video released earlier this week by Vice, a volunteer at a Trump merchandise store operated by the group Newport Harbor Republican Women offers to accept a visitor’s ballot and hold it while the unofficial ballot box that was previously on the premises was being delivered.

“They physically pick up the box and take it and deliver it,” one of the women in the video explains, adding that they’ll put the anonymous voter’s ballot in a safe until the ballot box returns.

Earlier this month, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a cease-and-desist order, instructing he GOP to remove its unofficial ballot boxes, many of which were explicitly marked “official.” While the GOP agreed to remove wording that indicates the boxes are “official,” they refused to remove the boxes and stop collecting ballots, arguing that their efforts are in line with a law that allows authorized persons to collect and submit ballots on behalf of multiple people.

But the GOP has conveniently ignored an important aspect of the existing California law, which the California GOP sued over earlier this year, claiming that third-party ballot collection was a violation of safer-at-home orders. According to the law, as Business Insider explains, “Those returning ballots…must properly sign for those voters’ ballots and follow the legal procedures to safely return them, and setting up unauthorized and unmonitored third-party drop boxes to collect ballots is not legal in California.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s efforts to ascertain how many of the legally dubious ballot boxes have been distributed throughout the state—and whether ballots were being handled as the law lays out—were stymied when a judge ordered that the California GOP wasn’t obligated to disclose that information. Secretary of State Padilla has said he’ll continue to investigate the GOP’s efforts.

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