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California Republicans ordered to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes

California officials have ordered the removal of unauthorized ballot drop boxes set up by Republicans in three Golden State counties.

"These unauthorized drop boxes are a disservice to state and local election administrators who have spent months working on the placement and deployment of official ballot drop boxes," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a news conference Monday, according to CNN.

Padilla said that images show the boxes are labeled as “official.” His office has issued a cease-and-desist order for their removal.

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California GOP officials defended the boxes, claiming they are a valid form of ballot harvesting, the practice of collecting multiple ballots to submit to election officials, according to The Associated Press. However, Padilla said that only county election officials are authorized to set up drop boxes and that the ones at issue lack required anti-tampering protections.

“We hope that the message goes out loud and clear to anyone who is trying to improperly solicit, obtain, and manage a citizen’s vote that they are subject to prosecution,” State Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraNearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment HHS, HUD team up to extend COVID-19 vaccine access in vulnerable communities We urgently need a COVID-level response to the US drug crisis MORE (D) said. “I’m trying to be careful with how I say this, but the reports we are hearing are disturbing.”

Padilla told CNN’s Chris CuomoChris CuomoDOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws Haaland: Santorum's Native American comments 'unfortunate' CNN's Jake Tapper questions giving some GOP leaders airtime MORE on Monday that the unauthorized boxes "don't have a chain of custody and we don't have the requirements or regulations for these fake drop boxes as you do for the official drop boxes."

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The state GOP said in a statement that election law only forbids ballot tampering or forgery and paying people to collect ballots.

Padilla’s office said earlier Monday that his office was coordinating with local officials to investigate boxes in Orange, Fresno and Los Angeles 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,” he said in a statement.