Hundreds of mail-in ballots were collected from the drop box outside the San Luis Obispo County Government Center Tuesday morning.  Temporary election worker George Fisher made sure the envelopes were signed before the ballots were placed in the ballot box.

Hundreds of mail-in ballots were collected from the drop box outside the San Luis Obispo County Government Center Tuesday morning. Temporary election worker George Fisher made sure the envelopes were signed before the ballots were placed in the ballot box.

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The San Luis Obispo County Republican Party advises voters to deliver ballots to its two local offices, but none of the county’s official ballot drop-off locations.

The practice, commonly referred to as “ballot harvesting” or “ballot harvesting”, has been criticized in recent years for introducing a third party into the ballot submission process and, therefore, could increase the potential of fraud, according to critics. .

Republicans on a congressional committee went so far as to call the practice “sinister.”

The local GOP launched the service after voters raised safety concerns about county drop boxes, party spokesman Erik Gorman said.

County Clerk Elaina Cano said it was legal for the organization to collect and submit ballots for people, as long as they follow certain processes, such as obtaining consent from the ‘elector.

She noted that the elections office is required by law to implement “checks and balances” when collecting ballots. This includes “double custody,” which means two people must be with the ballots when they are moved or processed.

“Anyone with an unofficial drop box is not bound by those same laws, which is something to think about when it comes to security,” Cano said.

What does California law say about ballot collection?

California law allows voters to designate another person to deliver their ballot, and it relaxed previous restrictions on who that person should be.

Prior to 2018, this designated person had to be a family member, but this is no longer the case.

California law also prohibits the nominee from receiving compensation for submitting ballots.

Unlike some states, it places no limit on the number of ballots a person can deliver. Twelve states have such restrictions on books, according to Ballotpedia.

SLO Republican Party collecting ballots

The Republican Party asked voters to return ballots to their two offices, located at 7357 El Camino Real in Atascadero and 1312 E. Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande, according to its website.

The website also asks voters to drop off their ballots at county clerk offices in Atascadero and San Luis Obispo, vote at the polls on Election Day, or, as a last resort, mail in their ballots.

The San Luis Obispo County Republican Party is hosting a fundraising picnic for District 2 Supervisory Board candidate Bruce Jones on Saturday and asked voters to bring their ballots to the event. GOP staff will then “securely deliver them and make sure your vote is counted,” a flyer for the fundraiser said.

The SLO County Republican Party has received complaints that some voters do not trust county drop box security, noting that ballots sometimes sit in drop boxes overnight without security, said Gorman. This motivated the party to open its own drop-off locations a few elections ago, according to Gorman.

When people drop off their ballot at the GOP office, they must indicate on the back of their ballot that they authorize the staffer to deliver the ballot on their behalf, Gorman said.

At the end of the day, a GOP staffer will collect the ballots, drive them to the clerk’s office and deliver them, Gorman said.

“We don’t want to be stuck with them,” Gorman said, so they submit ballots to the county every day.

Gorman said many voters use the Republican Party’s delivery service. On the final day of the primary election, more than 1,000 voters cast their ballots at local GOP offices, he said.

At the Jones fundraiser, the party will follow the same protocol: voters will drop their ballots into a ballot box and a staffer will deliver the ballots at the end of the day.

“Someone is keeping an eye on this (the box),” Gorman said. “We want to keep the process as secure as possible.”

Congressional Republicans call ballot harvesting a ‘sinister practice’

While local Republicans believe collecting ballots makes the process safer, other party members are speaking out against the practice.

Former President Trump himself targeted the practice after his defeat in the 2020 election.

“GET AWAY FROM THE HARVEST OF BALLOTS, IT’S CREEPING WITH FRAUD. THE UNITED STATES MUST HAVE A VOTER ID, THE ONLY WAY TO GET AN HONEST COUNT! he said in an April 20, 2020 Tweet, according to The Washington Post.

Similarly, the Republicans Committee on House Administration, which monitors congressional elections, has a dedicated page on its website warning of “the threat of ballot harvesting.”

“Ignoring this most notable threat to election security is unacceptable in an election security bill, something Democrats have chosen to do not once this Congress but repeatedly,” the website says. “…While Democrats choose to ignore this clear threat to our nation’s elections, Republicans remain committed to outlawing this sinister practice, currently legal in states like California, to ensure that every American’s vote is counted and protected.”

Clerk-Recording Officer’s Instructions for Submission of Ballots

County Clerk Elaina Cano said it’s legal for the Republican Party to cast ballots for voters — as long as the voter indicates permission on the back of the ballot and the party submits the ballots to vote within three days of receiving them, she said.

“I think the liability comes down to whether or not the voter wants someone else to return their ballot, and that’s perfectly legal,” Cano said. “I would just like to make sure he is treated accordingly.”

When the elections office receives a group of ballots, staff transfer them to a ballot box inside the office, where they wait to be counted.

Cano urged voters to trust the county’s ballot collection process.

“I know our process is secure,” Cano said. “I know that once a voter returns their ballot to us, their ballot is set aside. He is being treated under supervision. There are checks and balances along the way.

Ballots are collected from county drop boxes every 72 hours, and two people must be with the ballots at all times when they are moved or processed. All but one of the drop boxes are occupied during the day, and the drop box with no staff is outside the elections office under security camera surveillance, Cano said.

“If voters are concerned about the security of returning their mail-in ballot, they can call our office and we can explain the security of our process,” Cano said.

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Stephanie Zappelli primarily covers county government for the SLO Tribune. She grew up in San Diego and is a fourth-year journalism major at Cal Poly. When not writing, Stephanie enjoys hiking, reading and exploring SLO.