Safe and secure? Ballot box in California that caught on fire now being investigated as arson

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BALDWIN PARK, CA – A fire that stemmed from a ballot box in Baldwin Park, California on October 18th is reportedly being investigated as a possible arson case, according to reports.

Reportedly several ballots were damaged from the fire.

The fire was said to have been discovered at approximately 8:00 p.m. on October 18th, with witness George Silva saying he was first alerted when he noticed smoke billowing out of the ballot box:

“I noticed the smoke coming out of the ballot box, it was pretty heavy.”

Responding units from the Los Angeles County Fire Department arrived on the scene relatively quickly to extinguish the flames.

According to reports, the firefighters inserted a hose into the burning ballot box to get the fire under control.

Firefighters then used a chainsaw to open the ballot box to retrieve the contents inside. Stacks of ballots were burned in the process, with Baldwin Park Mayor, Manuel Lozano, saying that there were an estimated 200 or more ballots tarnished.

Mayor Lozano stated that there’s going to be efforts made to connect with those who dropped their ballots inside of the box.

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Janice Hahn, confirmed on October 19th that any impacted voters from this incident will be sent new ballots to ensure their votes are counted in the upcoming election. Reportedly, federal investigators are looking into the incident in concurrence with local officials.

As of now, it is unclear how the fire was started exactly, but the matter is being treated as a suspected arson case until confirmed otherwise.

When speaking about the incident, LA.County Supervisor Hilda Solis referred to this act as a move to “disenfranchise voters” if it indeed turns out to be arson:

“The arson of an official ballot drop box by the Baldwin Park Library in the First District has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections.”

Solis commented on the collaboration between local law enforcement, and the involvement of federal authorities in the investigation:

“The Los Angeles County Registrar’s office immediately requested an investigation through local law enforcement and has reported the incident both to the FBI and the Attorney General for investigation and to obtain all available footage to determine the cause of the fire.”

Speaking of the L.A. County Registrar’s Office, the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan, spoke on the seriousness of this incident and ensured that whoever is responsible will be brought to justice:

“Tampering with vote by mail drop boxes and ballots is a serious criminal offense and we will vigorously seek the prosecution of individuals who engage in such behavior.”

County Supervisor Hahn believes this incident to be one of “malicious” intent, where all the preliminary evidence portrays a sense that someone was trying to mar the ballots inside of the container:

“It’s my understanding that it was malicious it wasn’t just a kid maybe throwing a match in a box. It was some serious vandalism cutting the box, they were determined to really destroy ballots.”

In an effort to decrease the likelihood of numerous ballots being compromised in a similar fashion, Hanh stated that moving forward ballot boxes will be emptied on a nightly cadence:

“In light of this incident, I am asking that the Registrar Recorder ensure ballot boxes are emptied nightly from now until Election Day.”

Within L.A. County, over 400 ballot drop boxes have been set up throughout the county as of October 5th to afford early voters plenty of locations to drop off their respective ballots.

The investigation into the matter is still ongoing, and there’s been no announcement of any suspects or persons of interest at this time.

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Earlier in October, a woman in South L.A. happened upon a stack of discarded ballots. Here’s that report from October 10th. 

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SOUTH LOS ANGELES, CA – As reports of issues with mail-in ballots continue to mount, a South Los Angeles woman has added a disturbing find to those concerns.

CBSN Los Angeles reports that resident Kandace Rushiddin noticed several ballots lying on the ground at a drive-through ATM at a local Bank of America.

She told the news outlet:

“I guess people were just driving over them and ignoring them.  So I took my paper towel and grabbed the ones I could.”

She picked up five, which she showed on camera.  It is unknown how many others were left on the ground.

Rushiddin posed the question which has crossed many minds when reflecting on finding discarded ballots.

She asked:

“You know, is this intentional?  Is this meant to suppress the vote?”

CBSN found that all the ballots were addressed to residents in one particular apartment complex near the ATM where Rushiddin found the ballots.

Upon interviewing one resident, they learned that mail is by no means secure at that location.

Apartment resident Mars Quinonez told the station:

“That’s scary, but honestly, our building gets constantly broken into.”

Quinonez went on to say that mail theft at the apartment complex is common, and that she has sometimes found all resident mailboxes open after unknown persons broke into them.

Quinonez added that she had received her ballot, but expressed concerns for her neighbors’ ability to have their votes counted.

She said:

“It’s worrisome because, like, how are you going to vote, or some people might still be waiting for their ballots, thinking that they’ll just come later, and not get them, and then by the time they realize and ask for another one, it might be too late.”

Despite news reports like this one, California Governor Gavin Newsom has continued to tout the safety of mail-in voting. 

In May,  Newsom signed an executive order calling for all California counties to provide mail-in ballots to all registered voters, thus making California the first state in the nation to do so.

Recently, Newsom made a failed attempt to push back on concerns about abuse with mail-in voting.

Author, podcast host, and Washington D.C. resident Jarrett Stepman recently tweeted that he had received a ballot at his parents’ home in California.

He wrote:

“My parents, who live in California, just received my voting ballot.

“I haven’t lived in California for 10 years…

“This mass mail in election is going to go great!”

Newsom responded with a tweet of his own, saying:

“Just so we’re all clear — this is FALSE.

“Ballots don’t get mailed in CA until next month.”

Stepman later tweeted a photo of a ballot his parents received, saying:

“And here’s my ballot right on schedule.  I haven’t lived in CA in a decade and notified the state I no longer live there.

“I could have voted twice.

“It would be nice if the governor was a little more concerned with the state’s electoral security, but I guess that’s too much to ask.”

Stepman’s situation is evidently not isolated.

Another Twitter user, CA MOlson, tweeted to Newsom:

“Just to let you know – my stepson has not lived in California for 3 years – and has a new Mexico id – and I received his California state ballot.”

Twitter user Ross Hougham responded to Stepman with a photo of his own (which said tweet has since been removed from Twitter)

He wrote:

“Ditto.  My parents received my ballot at their home yesterday, despite the fact that I’m registered in VA and have email “confirmation” that CA canceled my registration.

“Even worse, my brother got TWO ballots in the mail.”

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