Oct. 12 (UPI) -- California's attorney general and secretary of state sent the California Republican Party a cease and desist order on Monday to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the order had been sent during a press conference, stating that the operation of unofficial and unauthorized ballot drop boxes was illegal under state law.
Cease and desist orders were also sent to county Republican Parties in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange Counties where multiple illegal ballot drop boxes were brought to the state's attention over the weekend.
"State and local elections officials have worked tirelessly to provide voters multiple safe, secure options to return their vote-by-mail ballots," he said. "These unauthorized drop boxes are a disservice to elections administrators and a disservice to voters who deserve to cast their ballots with clarity and confidence."
Images of the drop boxes run by the Republican Party included in the cease and desist order show some are labeled as official, and an included online post from the Freedom's Way Baptist Church said it had an "official ballot box" that was "approved and brought by the GOP."
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they have received "disturbing reports" that members of the Republican Party in the three counties may be unwilling to remove the "fake" drop boxes, warning them that tampering with the vote is a prosecutable offense.
"It is illegal but more than just illegal, it is irresponsible to tamper with a citizen's vote," he said.
State law states only county officials have the authority to designate the location, hours of operation and number of drop boxes in the county.
Padilla told reporters that they are aware of "multiple" unauthorized drop boxes in at least three counties though they were working on gathering more information.
"One of the questions or concerns that comes with unauthorized, unofficial drop boxes is ensuring that all ballots make it from that box to the county, that's why the protocols and requirements are in place for official, authorized drop boxes both their frequency by which ballots are retrieved and returned to the county election's office and by who," he said.
The California Republican Party responded to the order in a statement accusing the Democratic Party of being "upset" because it was offering voters the opportunity to drop off ballots "with someone they know and trust."
"The Democrat anger is overblown when state law allows organizations, volunteers or campaign workers to collect completed ballots and drop them off at polling places or election offices," Hector Barajas, the spokesman for the California Republican Party, said in a statement.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert also accused the orders of being attempts to limit the rights of churches and Republicans while being an act "of voter suppression and possibly a civil rights violation."
Becerra warned those connected to the operation of the drop boxes to follow the law or face the consequences.
"We are here to announce without equivocation that these drop boxes that are not part of the county's official election collection process are illegal," he said. "If you participate in those activities you are knowingly engaging in an activity that is against the law."