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California Republicans Ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to Stop Ballot Harvesting During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Posted: Apr 22, 2020 1:50 PM
California Republicans Ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to Stop Ballot Harvesting During COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

The Califonia Republican Party sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) requesting he prevent ballot harvesting for the upcoming May 12 special elections as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom issued the state's "Stay-at-Home Order" on March 19, directing all residents to shelter in place unless they were essential workers. He then issued another Executive Order applying to the May 12 special elections that stated because of COVID-19 social distancing measures, the special election would be conducted as an all-mail election.

In their letter, which was obtained by Townhall, California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson wrote since permitting a voter to designate any other person to return a ballot – or ballot harvesting –  presents the same dangers as in-person voting, they asked Newsom to suspend the practice:

"Accordingly, with respect to the May 12, 2020 special elections occurring in Los Angeles, Ventura and Riverside Counties to fill the Congressional and State Senate vacancies, you ordered that the election would be conducted as an all-mail election notwithstanding provisions of the Elections Code. For the same reasons, you should also suspend provisions of Section 3017 of the Elections Code permitting a voter to designate any other person to return a ballot. It is true that in-person voting presents risks to public health and safety in light of COVID-19. It is also true that other activities in connection with voting present the same risk (or even higher) that must be mitigated during this historic event. As you know, Section 3017 of the Elections Code ordinarily allows a vote by mail voter to 'designate any person to return the ballot to the elections official who issue the ballot' on their behalf. (Elec. Code § 3017(a)(2).) During normal times, this may involve a stranger visiting a voter’s home and offering to return the voter’s ballot to the elections official. During these times, this activity presents an intolerable risk to public health and safety."

"For the health and safety of voters in the 25th Congressional District and the 28th Senate District, and any other voters casting a ballot in the near future, we request that you make it clear that the existing Stay-at-Home Order prohibits collection of ballots by persons who do not live in the same household as the voter," the letter continued. "At this time, this activity is a threat to the health and well-being of Californians because it violates social distancing measures and causes the exchange of a physical item that has been in a person’s household and likely contains saliva which is known to spread COVID-19. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that we will meet all six criteria you set yesterday to reopen the state by May 12th."

California currently has 35,881 confirmed Wuhan coronavirus cases, with 1,332 deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times.