Pass area residents are rightfully worried about the unofficial ballot drop boxes that have been reported to be popping up in Southern California near churches, gun shops and Republican Party offices donning a white paper label identifying them as either an “Official Ballot Drop Off Box” or a “Ballot Drop Box.”

To most voters, they look like state sanctioned drop-off sites.

Even more worrisome, it has also been reported that some of these receptacles do not have locks.

Although "ballot collection" or "ballot harvesting" is legal in California; it requires a person to sign over their ballot to an individual, who pledges to turn it in to election officials within 72 hours, however it is unclear whether this has happened.

The California Republican Party has admitted responsibility for placing more than 50 deceptively labeled “official” drop boxes for mail-in ballots.

State officials said it was illegal to tamper with a citizen’s vote; and that it could lead to voter fraud.

It appears to be a ploy to distract from the country’s institutional, trusted voting processes.

California voters should be confidant in knowing that voting by mail whether by an official drop box or by placing their signed and dated ballot in the mail is safe and secure.

California’s secretary of state Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra urge voters who might have unknowingly dropped off their ballots in these drop boxes to sign up with the state’s voter tracking website to ensure their vote is counted.

For residents nervous about spotting an official ballot drop box: official ballot drop boxes are secured in designated locations and marked with a county seal.

Only official drop boxes that have been authorized by the state can be used to collect mail-in ballots.

In Banning and Beaumont, the only official Ballot Drop Off boxes are at both city halls.

It is unclear at this time whether there are unofficial drop boxes in the Pass area.

At Banning City Hall, the official ballot box is located inside the building behind a locked door.

City employees check the signature on the back of the envelope to make sure it's the actual person's ballot and that the voter physically deposits the ballot in the box.

If you don’t want to bother with drop boxes, voters can return a ballot in the mail, no postage required, or return ballots to voting locations.

Citizens can also vote in person.

They should hold on to mail-in ballots in case they are required to surrender it at the polls.

If ballots that were dropped in these drop boxes are received by county officials, the ballots will be counted even if they do not have a third-party signature typically required for collected mail-in-votes, Padilla said.

No matter your political affiliation, I can’t remember another election that was more important for citizens to cast their vote safely and securely and without worry.

Voters should report any unauthorized ballot drop boxes to Riverside County’s Registrar of Voters Office at rovweb@rivco.org or to the secretary of state’s office at 1-800-345-VOTE or email votesure@sos.ca.gov.

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