Republicans Highlight Early Voting, Ballot Harvesting, and Drop Boxes at California GOP Meeting
Republicans Highlight Early Voting, Ballot Harvesting, and Drop Boxes at California GOP Meeting

By Nathan Worcester

BURLINGAME, Calif.—Midway through her remarks at the California GOP’s spring meeting, Harmeet Dhillon quipped about some of the alternatives to conventional same-day voting in the Golden State.

Election administration includes “mail-ballots and their use, ballot harvesting, drop boxes—all the stuff that we’re familiar with in California—in fact, we’re really experts on in California,” she said.

The Republican National Committee’s national committeewoman from California focused on election integrity litigation, much of it seeking to protect what she called “speed bumps on the left’s wholesale ballot harvesting.”

Harmeet Dhillon attends the 2023 California Republican Party convention in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 30, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

But other speakers on May 17 expanded on how the state’s GOP is accommodating itself to the “new normal” of non-Election Day voting, involving tactics with which some rank-and-file Republicans remain uncomfortable.

Those arguing for adaptation included California state Sen. Brian Jones, who leads the Republicans in that chamber.

“I’m trying to convince my wife [I’m] the super leader of the super minority,” he said jokingly.

Speaking after Ms. Dhillon, Mr. Jones delivered a detailed pitch for early voting, arguing that it saves money for candidates and helps voters feel a sense of connection and commitment.

“Now you have the time and the energy and the mental capacity to go and make sure other people are voting. And folks, we’ve got to take advantage of the ballot harvesting that’s happening in California. We can do it better than [the Democrats] do,” the state senate minority leader said.

Mr. Jones’s message on early voting was in line with what conservatives and Republicans across the country are now saying.

Early voting evangelists now include Turning Point Action, which has launched a ballot-chasing initiative designed to boost turnout, in part by educating conservative Americans about early voting.

“This is an early voting project. It straight-up is,” Andrew Kolvet, spokesman for the group, told The Epoch Times.

On Truth Social, former President Donald J. Trump has endorsed early and absentee voting, calling them and Election Day voting “good options.”

The Republican message on ballot harvesting and all that it entails has been more mixed. But California allows a designated person to return ballots in a relatively flexible way.

State Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones (R-San Diego) attends the 2024 California Republican Party convention in Burlingame, Calif., on May 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In 2021, California permanently instituted a policy of sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the state, building on a precedent set during the COVID-19 response.

In that environment, the state GOP is trying to master “legal ballot harvesting.”

A session titled “Ballot Harvesting & Curing” walked the audience through the rationale and mechanics of absentee ballot collection. Drop boxes were discussed at length.

Speaker Krista Pittman, deputy executive director and political director of the state GOP, described one legal ballot harvesting operation at an unnamed megachurch in the Inland Empire. She said that during the three previous election cycles, it yielded 60,000 ballots.

Ms. Pittman declined to provide the name of that megachurch to The Epoch Times.

Marin County Republican Guy Meyer at the California GOP Spring Training in Burlingame, Calif., on May 17, 2024. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)

In the audience, Marin County’s Guy Meyer, an associate delegate, asked if there were objections in the California Republican Party to mail-in voting.

“We are for whatever you’re most comfortable voting,” Ms. Pittman responded.

“If you do decide to go vote by mail, go do it as early as possible.”

That would leave the party more time for ballot curing, she said.

Ms. Pittman repeatedly encouraged voters to monitor the status of their ballots using California’s BallotTrax website.

“I thought [the Republican Party] were completely opposed to the mail-in,” Mr. Meyer told The Epoch Times afterward, noting that he had only recently joined the party after being an independent.

“The mail-in, to me, is a form of government to keep people from thinking. They want you to vote six weeks in advance. They don’t want you to listen to any debates.”

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