The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office announced on Monday morning it is "immediately increasing the frequency of ballot pickup at all ... boxes," following a fire thought to have been intentionally ignited inside a ballot drop box in Baldwin Park, a community in eastern LA County.
The alleged tampering attempt took place overnight between Sunday, Oct. 18, and Monday, Oct. 19, when an unknown person set fire to an official ballot drop box outside the Baldwin Park Library. Local law enforcement are investigating the incident and the registrar's office has reported the tampering to the FBI and the attorney general. Images from television news reports appeared to show several charred ballots inside the box. According to information from the county, staff had last emptied the drop box at 10:10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.
It was not made known how often drop boxes are emptied; however, information available on the California Secretary of State's website indicates the minimum pickup schedule to be every 96 hours (excluding weekends) in the weeks leading up to the election. For the 10 days prior to Election Day, "unstaffed" drop boxes must be emptied at least every 24 hours, excluding weekends. The frequency of ballot pickup is set to increase immediately.
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan, whose office is in charge of conducting the 2020 general election for all LA County registered voters, said in a press release that his office was taking the issue seriously and would be notifying voters whose ballots may have been destroyed or harmed.
“The Los Angeles County Registrar will continue to do everything possible to ensure the integrity of local elections,” Logan said in the prepared statement. “Tampering with vote by mail drop boxes and ballots is serious criminal offense and we will vigorously seek the prosecution of individuals who engage in such behavior.”
Of the 400 drop boxes operating in this year's election, just one is located in Malibu, outside the Malibu Library. There have been no reported issues at the Malibu drop box.
The county is utilizing ballot drop boxes as one of several ways local voters may cast a ballot in this year's election; voters may also vote at any of the nearly 1,000 vote centers located throughout the county (three are within Malibu City limits), drop their vote-by-mail ballots in the mail or return their vote-by-mail ballots to any vote center. Vote by mail ballots can be tracked by clicking here.
The reports of a fire at the Baldwin Hills drop box follow earlier reports of unauthorized ballot drop boxes appearing in areas of LA County as well as Orange and Fresno counties. Alex Padilla, California secretary of state, issued a cease-and-desist letter to the California Republican Party after it was determined the party (and its three local chapters in LA, Orange and Fresco counties) was responsible for the placement of the unauthorized boxes.
California Republican Party spokesperson Hector Barajas called the letter "a thuggish voter intimidation and vote suppression tactic by our Democratic Attorney General and Secretary of State" in a message on Twitter.
Editor's note: The story was updated to emphasize that the fire is thought to have been arson and the election tampering is alleged.