SACRAMENTO October 30, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra yesterday issued a bulletin to all California law enforcement on voter interference and intimidation laws. The guidance comes on the heels of questions that have arisen about what is and isn’t allowed at polling places and voting locations. The California Department of Justice is committed to ensuring an election that is free from any voter intimidation or interference.
“Election Day is approaching and over seven million Californians have already taken advantage of early voting options,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our goal at the Department of Justice is to make sure every person in this state who is eligible has the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to vote without worry that someone will tamper with their ballot or interfere as they cast their vote. Today’s bulletin alerts law enforcement about the laws that prohibit voter interference and intimidation that they may be called on to address between now and Election Day.”
The bulletin outlines that under California law, it is illegal to interfere with an election or tamper with voting machines and devices used to tally votes. It is also illegal to use threats of force, violence, coercion, or intimidation to pressure voters into changing their vote or not voting at all. Voter intimidation tactics can also be less obvious than a physical threat, but are nonetheless illegal. Other forms of voter intimidation include:
- Threatening to engage in criminal action against voters;
- Presenting false information about the voting process or voter eligibility requirements, including informing:
- Prospective voters that the ability to speak English is an eligibility requirement to vote;
- Voters that they need to present certain types of photo identification in order to vote; or
- Voters that there could be criminal consequences for voting (e.g., that voting rolls will be used for debt collection purposes, to undertake arrest warrant checks, etc.); and
- Aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote.
Attorney General Becerra has been working to ensure a safe election, free from health risks and intimidation. Earlier this month, along with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the Attorney General sent a cease and desist letter to the California Republican Party to stop operating unofficial ballot drop boxes, resulting in the California Republican Party agreeing to stop its unlawful activity. In addition, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief pushing back on an executive order by the Governor of Texas aimed at limiting the number of official ballot drop-off sites to one per county — even in counties with millions of residents. Attorney General Becerra joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general this month in an amicus brief in support of a challenge to aspects of the State of Mississippi’s vote-by-mail requirements that threaten to exclude voters who wish to avoid exposure to COVID-19. In September, Attorney General Becerra, as part of a coalition of attorneys general, secured an early court victory barring a series of changes imposed on the U.S. Postal Service by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Dejoy’s changes slowed the delivery of mail across the country and followed months of false attacks by President Donald Trump on mail-in voting. The Attorney General also filed an amicus brief in support of a challenge to a Florida law attempting to roll back voting rights.
Voters are encouraged to report suspected election violations or misinformation to their county elections office or to the California Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-345-VOTE (8683) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A copy of the bulletin is available here.