Authorities have opened an arson investigation after a ballot drop box in California’s Los Angeles County was damaged by fire Sunday evening.
The official ballot box was allegedly set on fire around 8:30p.m. on Baldwin Park Boulevard near the public library in Baldwin Park, several miles east of Los Angeles.
Firefighters who responded to the incident said there was “burning inside” the metal ballot box and pushed a firehose into the box to put out the fire. They later cut the box open with a power saw to reach the ballots.
It was not immediately clear how many ballots had been damaged by the blaze or saved from destruction. Police took possession of the ballots and planned to transport them on Monday to the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder’s office.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department said the incident is being investigated as arson. No suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made so far. The incident has also been reported to the FBI and the state attorney general’s office.
“Tampering with vote by mail drop boxes and ballots is serious criminal offense and we will vigorously seek the prosecution of individuals who engage in such behavior,” Dean Logan, registrar-recorder/county clerk for LA County, said in a statement.
Mail-in voting has become a fraught issue leading up to the November general election. Democrats have urged voters to vote by mail to avoid exposing themselves to the coronavirus, while President Trump has sounded the alarm about widespread voting by mail, saying it could become a breeding ground for election fraud.
As of Monday, at least 27.9 million Americans have already cast their votes for the election this fall.