California GOP Calls for Suspension of Ballot Harvesting During Pandemic

California GOP Calls for Suspension of Ballot Harvesting During Pandemic
A poll worker drops ballots into a ballot box during the California primary in San Diego, Calif., on March 3, 2020. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Brad Jones

The California Republican Party has asked the state to suspend ballot harvesting for two special elections set for May 12, claiming strangers going door-to-door during the COVID-19 pandemic could spread the disease.

State law allows people, commonly called ballot harvesters, to personally pick up mail-in ballots from voters who are unable to return the ballots themselves, and take them to drop-off locations.

Prior to 2016, state law limited these ballot deliveries to family members, or someone living in the same household. But Assembly Bill 1921 (AB 1921) changed the law, allowing voters to “designate any person” to pick up their ballots.
“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,” California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson wrote in an April 15 letter addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Newsom declared in a March 20 executive order that Southern California’s 25th Congressional District and 28th State Senate District special elections will be held on May 12 using all mail-in ballots—temporarily suspending traditional in-person voting at polls due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
“Our democracy will not be halted by this pandemic. We will adapt to new circumstances and continue to provide free and fair elections for our citizens,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said at the time, thanking the governor for taking the executive action.

“As we work collectively to flatten the curve, providing every voter the option to vote at home, while maintaining social distance, is a no-brainer,” Padilla added.

Patterson’s letter, on behalf of the GOP, was written in response to that order, in combination with the governor’s March 19 statewide stay-at-home order. It requests that the governor "suspend provisions ... 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,” the letter states. “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.”

Patterson urged Newsom to “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.”

“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,” she added.

With vote-by-mail ballots already arriving in mailboxes, Patterson’s letter requests that Newsom clarify the application of the stay-at-home order “to discourage dangerous face-to-face interactions and collection of ballots and envelopes that undermine efforts to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.”

On April 14, Newsom outlined six key indicators that would be considered before modifying the March 19 stay-at-home order. They include:
    • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
    • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
    • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
    • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
    • The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
    • The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.
Patterson said it is “highly unlikely” the state will meet the criteria to reopen—and lift the order prohibiting in-person voting—in time for the May 12 elections.

Newsom had not yet responded to the letter, according to the California GOP.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party's cover-up and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.