The California Republican Party last week sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to prohibit ballot harvesting for the upcoming special elections on May 12, to avoid risks to public health and safety in light of COVID-19.
In the letter, California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson explained:
“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.”
Patterson’s letter is in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide “Stay-at-Home Order” March 19, 2020, directing all California residents to shelter in place unless they were essential workers.
On March 20, 2020, Gov. Newsom issued another Executive Order applying specifically to the May 12 special elections in California’s 25th Congressional District and California’s 28th State Senate District, which declared that although the state’s Election Code would normally determine the special election be held using in-person voting, because of COVID-19 and social distancing measure, the election would be conducted as an all-mail election.
The California Republican Party is now asking Gov. Newsom to suspend other provisions of the Election Code, specifically permitting a voter to designate any other person to return a ballot – or ballot harvesting – because they present the same dangers as in-person voting.
Ballot harvesting violates social distancing measures and causes the exchange of a physical item that has been in a person’s household, which could increase the spread of COVID-19
With vote-by-mail ballots arriving to Californians’ homes now, the California Republican Party would like Gov. Newsom to clarify the application of his statewide Stay-at-Home Order to discourage any potentially dangerous face-to-face interactions and collection of ballots or envelopes – otherwise, ballot harvesting will undermine efforts to flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Patterson continued in the letter:
“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. 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.”
According to the GOP, Governor Newsom has yet to respond.
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