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California Republicans agree not to use unofficial ballot drop boxes

California Republicans agree not to use unofficial ballot drop boxes
© ABC7

California officials reached a deal with the state Republican Party on Friday over its use of unauthorized ballot drop-off boxes, saying the California GOP had agreed to concessions to address Sacramento’s concerns.

The agreement marks a resolution to a spat over the boxes, which the state said were incorrectly marked as “official” and lack required anti-tampering protections but Republicans said were legal and part of an effort to stop the “suppression” of GOP votes.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) in a statement announcing the deal berated the state GOP for making bullish remarks in public regarding the boxes but indicated he was satisfied the changes addressed his concerns over voter safety.

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“Despite their client’s rhetoric in the press, we’ve been in communication with legal counsel for the California Republican Party and they have committed to a number of significant concessions in their ballot collection activities,” he said. “Among other things, they will not make available or condone the use of unstaffed, unsecured unofficial ballot drop boxes. This is an important step in stopping the voter confusion created by their ballot collection activities.”

State Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraSecond court blocks Trump's order to exclude undocumented immigrants from census California Republicans agree not to use unofficial ballot drop boxes Schwarzenegger: California GOP has gone 'off the rails' with unofficial ballot boxes MORE (D) indicated that while a compromise was reached, Sacramento would still examine the party’s use of the drop-off boxes.

“We will continue to closely monitor election-related activities across the state to ensure compliance with the law. We are continuing our ongoing investigation and are issuing subpoenas to obtain additional information about ballot collection activities,” he said. 

The two officials had teamed up earlier this week to send a cease and desist order to the California Republican Party regarding the boxes, saying that mislabeling and safety issues surrounding ballot security did not protect them under the state’s “ballot harvesting” laws. The laws allow for parties to collect multiple ballots and submit them to election officials.

The California GOP first said Wednesday it would not comply with the order, noting it had used similar boxes in the past and saying it was ready to go to court over the issue. But in a response to Padilla before Friday’s announcement, the party said it would ramp up security measures, including having an official attend the boxes whenever the public has access to them, ensuring they are secured and ballots are delivered within 72 hours, and ceasing their representation of the boxes as “official.”

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The party still looked to claim victory Friday, denying it had done anything wrong and saying it the deal merely allowed them to continue what they believed to be a safe program. It intends to continue using boxes, where voters can cast ballots in a number of competitive House races.

“The Secretary of State and Attorney General didn’t know the facts and didn’t bother to learn them before accusing us on Monday. We can't agree to not do something we weren't doing to begin with. They could have shortened this press conference by simply saying ‘Sorry,’” said spokesperson Hector Barajas. “The California Republican Party made no concession to the Attorney General or the Secretary of State.”

The agreement is likely to lower the temperature over an issue that had garnered national attention, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE urging the state GOP to “fight hard” and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) saying the party was “off the rails.”