Ballot drop boxes are popping up at churches, gun shops, candidate HQs, and local GOP party offices in three California counties, which would seem on the surface to offer voters lots of options for getting their vote counted. The problem is, these ballot boxes aren't official, and California's secretary of state is now teaming up with local elections authorities to investigate the boxes spotted 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," Alex Padilla says in a statement, per the Orange County Register. The Washington Post notes the California GOP has been using social media to promote using these rogue green drop boxes, and it's citing a 2016 California law that it says allows for a controversial practice called "ballot harvesting."
This practice, which is legal in many states, allows campaign volunteers to collect and drop off ballots from voters, helping individuals who are disabled or otherwise can't get out to vote. Republicans have long argued that this could lead to ballots getting tampered with or misplaced. Now, however, they're appropriating the practice for their own use. "If a congregation/business or other group provides the option ... [for voters] to drop off their ballot in a safe location ... what is wrong with that?" the California GOP tweeted on Sunday. Padilla's office pushes back on that argument, noting the law requires voters to designate an actual person to collect and return their ballots (the GOP boxes aren't manned), and that there's a lengthy list of security requirements for official boxes. Those who are convicted for operating unofficial ballot drop boxes in California can receive up to four years behind bars. Californians can check out their secretary of state's website to find official drop box sites. (Read more voting stories.)