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Ballot harvesting at play in Newsom recall election

San Diego Republican Party Chair Paula Whitsell said they've got a laundry list of to-do items including making phone calls, door-knocking and ballot harvesting.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ballots in the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom start being mailed out to every registered voter this Saturday, ramping up the plan for state political parties to get those ballots back and counted.

The strategy is also referred to as "ballot harvesting," "ballot collecting" or "third party ballot return." In 2016, the Democratic-controlled California legislature made it so that anyone could return ballots, and there's no limit on how many ballots they can return. 

San Diego Republican Party Chair Paula Whitsell said the party has a laundry list of to-do items including making phone calls, door knocking and ballot harvesting. 

"Generally speaking, it's not something we condone," Whitsell said. "But in the state of California it is legal, so we need to play by the rules." 

Whitsell said if it were up to her, she would ban the practice in the state, but said in this case "we're dealing with people that we know, we know how they're registered, they are our friends and neighbors." 

Most ballots are mailed by voters back to their county's elections office or dropped off at clearly marked official drop-boxes. Voters can track their ballot through the state's Ballottrax system.  Official drop box locations are available on county elections websites.

  GO DEEPER:  Here's what you need to know about ballot harvesting in California. (Yes, it's legal)

Placer County Republican Party Chair Marc Wright said it's part of his chapter's game plan too.

 "We would prefer them to put it in the box themselves, but some people can't,"  Wright said.

Wright said his chapter will not be door knocking because the area is rural and houses are too spread out, but volunteers will make the trip to pick up a ballot if requested. 

Democratic Strategist Robin Swanson called Republican efforts hypocritical. 

"There’s a lot of hypocrisy in that they’ve gone state by state and tried to make the presidential election seem fraudulent,” Swanson said. 

"Our techniques have had to change with the times." Swanson said.

 "Going door to door right now is unacceptable," Swanson said. "People do not want you to show up on their doorstep to tell you to go out and vote."

Swanson said door knocking also used to be an affective strategy, adding "I don’t think people are wanting to do car rides to get people to the polls." So instead, she said there needs to be a lot of reminding done on behalf of the party. 

  GO DEEPER: All about the Newsom recall

ABC10 reached out to the Democratic Party of California to see how they planned to get out of the vote. Communications Director Shery Yang sent back this statement: "CADEM is tapping into our grassroots people power, organizing our activists and we are committed to a getting out the vote program that will activate voters to vote NO on the Republican Recall."

We also reached out to several local Democratic parties and Governor Gavin Newsom's office, but haven't heard back. 

Since ballots will be going out to all registered voters, political strategist Rob Stutzman, who has worked with Republicans, said it will automatically favor the heavily Democratic electorate. Ballot harvesting is a strategy he said has always helped Republicans.  

  WATCH MORE POLITICS:  The televised debate at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Orange County, California, represented a chance for four Republican candidates to connect with voters statewide.


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