BUENA PARK, Calif. — The gubernatorial recall election in California is Sept. 14.
California state law says voters have four options to return their ballot: They can mail it, return it in-person to an election center, put it in an official drop box operated by their county or give it to someone else to return it for them. Handing in a ballot to a third party is commonly known as ballot harvesting — and yes, it's allowed.
What You Need To Know
- Election Day for California's gubernatorial recall is Sept. 14
- If you mail in your ballot, it must be postmarked by Election Day
- Ballot Harvesting is legal
- Dozens of women are involved in the effort to ensure every vote counts
"It's perfectly legal for groups to do that," said Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley. "The one requirement is that they maintain custody of those ballots. And they have to turn them into our office within 72 hours. Otherwise, they can knock on doors and go do that."
Some women in Orange County who are passionate about politics say they're helping make sure every vote counts by organizing ballot pickups or ballot harvesting. Cynthia Thacker, one of the dozens of women collecting ballots, has always been into politics.
Thacker explained that she grew up with a mom who volunteered at polling centers.
"We talked at the dinner table about issues," she said.
Thacker added that as a kid, she was taught about the importance and privilege of voting.
"So it's always in my blood," she said.
Thacker is all about being involved in elections, whether campaigning for a candidate or volunteering wherever she's needed. Thacker's civic engagement has her spending a lot of time in her car for the recall election.
"My mother always said I was a good driver," she said with a laugh as she drove from Buena Park to Santa Ana.
Thacker has been driving around town collecting ballots from the community, noting that she started doing it because "it's one attempt at making sure we're comfortable with mail-in ballots."
The women involved in the ballot harvesting efforts who belong to the Republican Women Federated local chapters say they have some concerns about mailing in a ballot.
"Anything could happen," Thacker said. "It could get lost. It could just be thrown."
Therefore, Thacker said she'd rather take ballots herself to the Orange County Registrar of Voters in Santa Ana.
"I'm just making sure my vote is safe," she said.
When talking to her friends, Thacker learned they too felt weary about mailing their ballots. And so, this ballot harvesting effort ramped up.
"It just kind of organically grew into, well, 'Why don't you go collect from your friends. I'll make sure they get down there. I tell everybody else,'" she said.
Melissa Wolfe got involved and collected ballots in her neighborhood to give to Thacker. She recently counted them up before Thacker was scheduled to arrive to pick them up.
"This is about my 30th ballot I've received," Wolfe said. "And people are just really excited to vote."
Wolfe added that the ballot collection efforts help her community feel assured their ballots will get counted.
"The appeal to a lot of voters is, they don't have to make the trip themselves to have their vote safely delivered," she said.
Thacker picked up the ballots from Wolfe and headed home first because Thacker must do one more thing before heading to the registrars to drop the ballots. As she explained, the law requires Thacker to "sign it saying that this person authorized me to collect this ballot and take it to where I'm going to drop it off."
Once she signed the stack of ballots, Thacker headed to her car and headed to the registrar of voters.
"Mission accomplished," she said.
The final step is inserting the ballots into a ballot drop box located at the registrar of voters.
"It is just about us making sure our votes are counted," Thacker said as she finished.
The women say they're going to be collecting ballots until Election Day.