Schwarzenegger: California Republicans 'off the rails' with 'fake' ballot boxes

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Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks onstage during Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Annual Grants Banquet at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on July 31, 2019 in Beverly Hills, Calif. | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

SACRAMENTO — Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday night that the state Republican Party is “off the rails” and doing a “stupid thing” by placing unauthorized ballot boxes in counties with battleground congressional districts.

Schwarzenegger, the state’s last Republican governor, was asked during a CNN interview to respond to the California Republican Party placing unauthorized ballot boxes in at least three counties. Republicans have defended the move as no different than Democrats going door-to-door to collect ballots from sympathetic voters, but state officials have ordered the party to remove the boxes because, they said, only counties are allowed to establish them.

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“It’s a stupid thing that they’re doing right now with those ballot boxes,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think it’s just Mickey Mouse stuff that, you know, has serious kind of effects. And I think that what they should do, really, is offer people hope and make everyone participate and make everyone be able to vote and those kind of things rather than make those fake ballot boxes.”

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former Democratic congressman, earlier this week demanded that Republicans remove the boxes. He and other state leaders say the boxes are unsecured and could confuse voters who mistake them for official ballot collection boxes as they return their mail ballots.

Republicans, however, say they are on firm legal ground because California law allows third parties to collect ballots and submit them on behalf of voters. They say Democrats perfected that approach during the 2018 midterm elections, in which they left the GOP with only seven of California’s 53 congressional seats.

California Republican Party spokesperson Hector Barajas had no comment in response to Schwarzenegger’s comments.

The former governor has not hidden his feelings about the California Republican Party and its longtime appeal to its conservative base rather than to moderates closer to his political leanings. The governor in 2007 famously told state GOP activists at their convention that their party was “dying at the box office,” a speech he recalled Thursday night on CNN.

Schwarzenegger left office in early 2011. In deep-blue California, the party has since lost even more ground to Democrats and until recently trailed the number of independent voters in the state. Republicans now have 24 percent of California’s 21.2 million registered voters compared to Democrats’ 46 percent.

Schwarzenegger, in his CNN interview, called the party a “sinking ship” because it has no interest in health care or education. The former governor was on air to tout his Schwarzenegger Institute’s grant program to help fund additional polling places in counties with voting access problems.

Carla Marinucci contributed to this report.

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