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Unofficial Ballot Boxes Popping Up At Several Stanislaus County Churches

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) – Unofficial ballot boxes are popping up in Stanislaus County.

Some voters say they aren't taking their chances with these boxes and are taking their mail-in ballots to the official boxes in Stanislaus County.

"We drove from Turlock to come here to put it in that box right there so we know it's going to get counted," Robert Tumazi from Turlock said.

Donna Linder, the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder, said the department was made aware of five churches that have these boxes or were thinking of installing them at their locations.

Linder told CBS13 that their department is aware of unofficial boxes being at Big Valley Grace Community Church and New Life Christian Center. And the department also heard reports of interest of boxes being located at One Church Modesto, Monte Vista Chapel and Harvest Church.

READ: California Republican Party Says It Will Not Remove Unofficial Ballot Boxes

"So, we've reached out to those churches and sent them California law and the Secretary of State's memorandum so that they can follow California law and if they chose to collect ballots from their parishioners," Linder said.

The executive pastor at Big Valley Grace told CBS13 he wasn't aware of the Registrar of Voters office contacting the church. But, the church did provide us with the following statements regarding the unofficial ballot boxes.

"Our intent is to influence our church family, both biblically and legally, to register to vote, to vote, and to turn in their ballots. To date, we have not been communicated to by an official government agency that suggests we have done otherwise,"  Senior Pastor Joel Boone said.

"It is my legal opinion that the collection of ballots at Big Valley Grace Community Church is legal under California Elections Code Section 3017," Attorney Michael Porrazzo, the attorney for the church, said.

These unofficial ballot boxes are now a partisan and contentious as the issues on the actual ballot.

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California Democrats are citing a state law that someone has to sign the back of the ballot if they drop it off on someone's behalf. But, the California GOP had stated the boxes are much safer than the methods democrats have collected ballots in years past.

Professor Mary-Beth Moylan with the University of The Pacific said there's a lot of grey area when it comes to whether or not the boxes are legal.

"It would be a matter of interpretation for the courts. I think there's a fair reading of the statute that says a voter can give their ballot to another person to deliver for them," Moylan said. "And so the act of actually just placing it in a box that is not an official ballot box may not contort with that standard."

There is still a standard that matters to all voters — that their vote is counted.

"If the voters [are] okay with it, and the people are legitimately and are trying to get an expedited collection of like-minded people I'm okay with it," Jimmy Harrell of Modesto said.

"If they go to a church and they're collecting them at a church; that would be a trust place. But I still agree that I would come here," Nora Tumazi, Robert's wife, said.

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