On brand for 2020, the state GOP thumbs its nose at election rules.
On Monday, Oct. 13, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a cease-and-desist order to the California Republican Party because over the preceding week, the GOP-ers, in an apparently coordinated effort, dropped unofficial ballot boxes at various locations in three counties. CBS Los Angeles reported one such box—gray metal, with a sign reading “Official Ballot Box” taped to the outside—was placed outside Freedom’s Way Baptist Church in Los Angeles County. The Orange County Register, meanwhile, obtained a list of these unofficial ballot boxes posted by the Fresno Republican Party and among the locations of their boxes were churches, gun shops and their own headquarters.
The story broke over the weekend because on Oct. 11, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla sent a letter to all county clerks and registrars of voters stating their office had been made aware of the non-official ballot dropboxes being used at local political party offices, candidate headquarters and churches around the state.
“State law does not authorize the use of unauthorized, non-official vote-by-mail ballot dropboxes,” the letter states. “County elections officials alone have the authority to designate the location, hours of operation, and number of dropboxes in the county, and have the responsibility for ensuring compliance with all applicable statutes and regulations that guarantee the security and chain of custody of vote-by-mail ballots deposited.”
The letter ends with a pretty serious reminder: Every person is guilty of a felony if they, without having been duly appointed, acts as an elections officer and if they perform or discharge any of the duties of an election officer in regard to the handling, counting, or canvassing of any ballots.
The response from the state GOP? A big “up yours” to Padilla and Becerra. From the state party’s official Twitter account, via spokesman Hector Barajas: “In California, where you can have convicted felons and individuals with criminal history go door to door and collect ballots from voters, Democrats are now upset because organizations, individuals and groups are offering an opportunity for their friends, family and patrons to drop off their ballot with someone they know and trust.”
I’m in no way trying to imply Democrats are innocent of bad behavior come election time. Witness last week’s shenanigans from District 4 county supervisor candidate Steve McShane.
Around the country, there’s a real fear—premised in good part on his own statements—that Donald Trump will not commit to an orderly transition of power when (if?) he loses. As a result, the organization Choose Democracy is holding a series of trainings, described as nonpartisan, on what to do if Trump declares the election results fraudulent and urges his base to continue supporting his presidency, valid or not. The trainings will be led by George Lakey, author of 10 books, including How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning.
“We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab—a coup,” the webinar description states. “Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.”
The past four years have been one previously unthinkable moment after another, and the possibility of a coup is one of those. But, as Choose Democracy puts it, a coup only works if the public honors it. There are four trainings taking place between now and Oct. 27—hit choosedemocracy.us to register, and check the Weekly’s website for a list of county-sanctioned ballot boxes as well.
-Mary Duan, managing editor, firstname.lastname@example.org