State Election Leaders, Umberg and Berman, Condemn Fake Ballot Boxes & Issue Warning to Partisan Perpetrators

Thursday, October 15, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Orange County), Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, condemned the recent reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes appearing throughout California. Metal containers marked “Official ballot drop-off box” have been popping up in gyms, gun stores, campaign headquarters, and even churches across the state in recent weeks, with Republicans urging voters to drop their ballots inside. As the Legislature’s elections experts, Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman are informing anyone involved in the Republican Party’s illegal activity that doing so may be a crime under California law.

“It is no surprise that President Trump supports this latest attempt at misleading voters. The Republican Party will stop at nothing in their desperate effort to try to erode the public’s trust in our election system,” said Senator Umberg. “Posting fake drop-off boxes in order to deceive voters and then complaining that mail-in ballots promote fraud is akin to robbing your own bank and then complaining about inadequate security.” Those setting up these boxes in an attempt to misrepresent themselves as election officials and subvert our Democracy must be punished.”

“Four years ago, California amended state law to allow a voter to designate any trusted person to return that voter’s completed vote-by-mail ballot. That law was based on a simple principle: that it shouldn’t be a crime for a voter to ask a neighbor, friend, or co-worker to help ensure that their vote is counted,” said Assemblymember Berman. “To be clear, while California law allows a voter to give their ballot to a trusted person to return, it does not allow private organizations to set up unsecure and unstaffed collection boxes, and to mislead voters into believing that they are operated by the elections officials that are charged with running elections.”

California Elections Code Section 18002 makes it a felony for a person to willfully neglect or refuse to perform a duty that is imposed on them under California’s election laws. When a voter designates another person to return the voter’s ballot, Elections Code Section 3011(a)(9)-(11) requires that designee to provide their name, relationship to the voter, and signature on the ballot identification envelope. It also requires that designee to submit that ballot within three days.  People erecting these scam drop boxes are subject to criminal prosecution if ballots are not returned unscathed within the required timeframe. 

Voters who have dropped their ballots into one of these unauthorized drop boxes should know that California law ensures that their vote will be counted, notwithstanding the misconduct of the California Republican Party. To ensure that the appropriate elections official receives their ballot, voters should sign-up to track their ballot at http://wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov/.

Contacts:

Elizabeth Schmitt, Elizabeth.Schmitt@asm.ca.gov, (916) 319-2024 (Berman)

Michael Henning, Michael.Henning@sen.ca.gov, (916) 934-8548 (Umberg)