California election officials have received reports that unofficial ballot drop boxes were placed in several counties and said these set-ups are illegal.

The Orange County Register reports Monday that Secretary of State spokesman Sam Mahood said boxes were reported in Fresno, Los Angeles and Orange counties at locations including political party offices, candidate headquarters and churches. He said the state was looking into the origin of the boxes.

California’s Secretary of State issued a memo to county registrars this weekend clarifying that unofficial drop boxes are illegal and ballots must be returned by mail or to official polling places, vote centers or ballot drop-off locations.

The memo comes after a regional field director for the California Republican Party in Orange County supporting the congressional campaign of Michelle Steel posed in a social media photo with a box labeled “official ballot drop off box” and encouraged voters to message him for “convenient locations” to drop their ballots, the newspaper reported. Steel, a county supervisor, is challenging Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda for his seat.

There was a report about a similar box at a church in the Los Angeles County community of Castaic. The church posted on social media the box was “approved and brought by the GOP,” the paper said.

In Orange County, Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said official drop boxes are clearly recognizable and carry the official county elections logo. He said it wasn’t clear how many voters had used these unofficial drop boxes in his county but after receiving reports about them he notified the state and district attorney’s office.

“It would be like me installing a mailbox out on the corner – the post office is the one that installs mailboxes,” Kelley told the newspaper.

Lance Trover, a spokesman for Steel’s campaign, deferred questions to the state Republican Party.

Messages seeking comment were left for the state Republican Party. The party questioned in a post on Twitter this weekend what would be wrong with a group providing an option for associates to drop off ballots in a safe location rather than handing them to an individual.

A message was left seeking comment with California’s Democratic Party. Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party in Orange County, said in a statement the fake boxes were an attempt at voter suppression.

“Voters need trust in our election system, and this latest attempt by senior Republicans only erodes that trust,” she said.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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