BALDWIN PARK (CNS) - More than 200 ballots are believed to have been inside a Baldwin Park drop box that burned in a suspected arson fire, but the county's top election official said today a “significant number'' were recovered and the affected voters' information can be retrieved in the “vast majority'' of cases.
Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan and County Supervisor Hilda Solis, meanwhile, said the Sunday night fire should not discourage people from taking advantage of the drop boxes to cast their vote.
“Regardless of the motive of the incident, I know this scenario might deter people from voting, but I want to urge you not to let that be the end result,'' Solis said. “So many of you and your families, and your ancestors have fought so hard for us to have the right to vote, and that includes the very residents in Baldwin Park.''
The fire in the Baldwin Park voting drop box occurred about 8 p.m. Sunday near Baldwin Park and Ramona boulevards. According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Firefighters shoved a hose through the box opening to quench the flames and later had to cut it open.
The fire is being investigated as a suspected act of arson. County officials have reached out to the FBI and state Attorney's General's Office to assist in the investigation.
Logan said there have not been any other reports of arson or vandalism at any other of the roughly 400 drop boxes around the county.
He said the county responded to the fire report “immediately to make sure that there wasn't an issue of widespread vandalism or attempts to block the vote through these boxes.''
“Preliminary indications indicate that's not the case,'' he said. “What happened there and what I think is important for voters to hear is that these are early voting ballots. And we were able to retrieve a significant number of the ballots in that box. We have received those from the Baldwin Park Police Department. We are going through those. On the vast majority of them we are able to ascertain at a minimum the voters' information, if not preserve the ballot itself.''
He said the county will be reaching out to affected voters so they can cast a new ballot if needed.
Logan again noted that the last pickup of ballots from the box occurred about 10 a.m. Saturday. Anyone who placed a ballot in the box between that time and when the fire occurred around 8 p.m. Sunday was urged to contact the county at 562-503-2445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
He said the county had been picking up ballots every 48 hours from the boxes, but that schedule has now been changed to every 24 hours.
According to Logan, about “230 pieces of material'' were recovered from the box and turned over to election officials.
“That doesn't necessarily equate to 230 ballots, although it could be close to that, so we need to go through those individually,'' he said.
Solis said a new drop box will be placed in Baldwin Park at a different location, likely one with better lighting.
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