Christal Mims, Staff

The California Republican Party (GOP) is being accused of installing unofficial ballot drop-off locations in a move that state officials are calling illegal. Metal boxes with signs claiming to be “official ballot drop-off” locations have popped up in areas near churches, gyms, political party offices, guns stores and other places around Southern California. The California Secretary of State has received reports about the unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange counties.

“Operating unofficial ballot drop boxes — especially those misrepresented as official drop boxes — is not just misleading to voters, it’s a violation of state law,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “My office is coordinating with local officials to address the multiple reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes. Californians should only use official ballot drop boxes that have been deployed and secured by their county elections office.”

Implementing unofficial ballot boxes could be a felony that would result in a two-to-four-year prison sentence.

The GOP has been taking to social media to encourage voters to drop off their ballots at the unofficial locations, with one regional director for the party taking to Twitter to prompt voters to contact him for information on where they can drop off their ballot.

The party defended their actions on Twitter, defining their drop-off locations as “safe.”

“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 tweeted in response to someone calling them “untrustworthy.”

The GOP also referred to “ballot harvesting” a controversial, legalized practice passed by Democrats as justification for the unofficial locations. Ballot harvesting allows campaign volunteers to collect ballots door-to-door and return them to be counted on behalf of voters in some states.

“This procedure has been in place since 2016 — not sure why people are all of a sudden surprised,” the California GOP tweeted.

Still, state officials are encouraging voters to only drop off their ballots at official county drop boxes.

“Official county drop boxes are built with specific security protections, and ballots are retrieved only by designated county personnel. If you do have questions about voting, go to official, reliable sources of information—your county elections office or the Secretary of State’s office,” said Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley.