Last week there was a big brouhaha over the pandemic-friendly ballot harvesting boxes deployed in numerous California counties by the California Republican Party and the efforts of CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla to shut them down. As we covered, although state officials characterized the CAGOP’s private ballot collection boxes as illegal, there is nothing in the ballot harvesting law specifically forbidding their use – which is probably the reason why officials didn’t forcibly shut them down last week (in addition to the fact that at least one Dem candidate is doing the same thing).
The CAGOP refused to dismantle the boxes, and they also refused to comply with another request in the cease and desist letter: to send the name, address, and birthdate of all voters who had placed their ballot within a CAGOP-operated ballot dropbox. In the cease and desist letter Padilla and Becerra explained that they were going to have employees from county registrars’ offices contact the voters “to advise them of their options to verify the return status of their vote-by-mail ballot.” In other words, they planned to give these ballots more scrutiny than those harvested utilizing any other method; in fact, county registrars don’t even note which ballots are returned via a harvester (which would be apparent when someone brings in hundreds or thousands of ballots at a time).
That argument or procedure is unnecessary anyway; as the Secretary of State’s office advertises to all of the state’s voters, voters in each county can track their vote-by-mail ballot through Ballot Trax. So if a voter who used one of these receptacles wanted to verify that their ballot got to the right place, they already have the ability to do that.
During Friday’s press conference Becerra advised reporters that there was still an ongoing investigation, and Monday he filed a petition in Sacramento Superior Court requesting the court order the California Republican Party be forced to respond to “investigative interrogatories” issued by his office, meaning, that the court order the California Republican Party to provide this information.
Becerra announced the action on Twitter, along with the unbelievable remark that “Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections.”
We're seeking a court order to compel the California Republican Party to comply with investigative interrogatories.
Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections. https://t.co/8WRwoNglB5
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) October 20, 2020
To which the CAGOP replied:
“This is an abuse of power. The California Republican Party responded and objected to the Attorney General’s subpoenas on numerous grounds, including the right to privacy. We will stand up to this type of authoritarian bullying tactics.”
— CAGOP (@CAGOP) October 20, 2020
The CAGOP announced that they would not provide the list and why.
“@CAGOP will not provide the @CASOSvote @AlexPadilla4CA or @AGBecerra a list of Californians who attend religious services, frequent firearms retailers, participate in political events, or engage in any other lawful activity.”@HectorMBarajas , spokesman for @CAGOP
— CAGOP (@CAGOP) October 20, 2020
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) went further, accusing the Attorney General of using his office for political purposes.
You are using your office to get Republicans to share their legal campaign strategies. Something you don’t do with Democrats or labor unions when they conduct the same legal activities. That’s not integrity – that’s an abuse of power. https://t.co/iZBnwJu6P6
— Ken Calvert (@KenCalvert) October 20, 2020
It’s clear that Attorney General Becerra and Secretary of State Padilla are engaging in actions intended to intimidate voters and chill their First Amendment rights. It’s wonderful to see the California Republican Party standing up to these bullies.