Watch CBS News

California ballot drop box fire prompts investigation for suspected arson

Do voters trust mail-in ballots?
Do voters trust mail-in ballots? 12:56

A fire erupted in an official ballot drop box in Baldwin Park, California, on Sunday. Now, authorities are investigating the fire, which damaged several ballots, CBS Los Angeles reports. Arson is suspected. 

"I noticed the smoke coming out of the ballot box, it was pretty heavy," witness George Silva said.

The fire was discovered around 8 p.m. and the Los Angeles County Fire Department arrived to extinguish it. A hose was put into the slot of the ballot box and firefighters used a chainsaw to open it. Stacks of burned ballots were removed. 

Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano said more than 200 ballots were involved, according to CBS LA. Lozano said the residents who used the ballot box to cast their vote would need to be contacted.

On Monday, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the voters impacted by the fire were being sent new ballots.

Federal investigators and local leaders are looking into the fire for suspected arson, but it is still unclear how the fire started, CBS Los Angeles reported.

"(This) has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections," LA.County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

Hahn said it is "unbelievable" to her "that during this very important election cycle that someone would stoop that low to target an official drop box where people have been placing their ballots and set it to fire." 

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

Officials are also investigating several unauthorized ballot boxes that were recently spotted across Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties, CBS LA reports. Some boxes were labeled "official," but they were not. The state's Republican party said they installed some of the boxes and argued it wasn't against the law. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.