A mail-in ballot drop-off box in California was damaged by fire in an incident that's being investigated as arson, officials said Monday.
Firefighters responded to reports of a ballot box fire outside the Baldwin Park Library around 8 p.m. Sunday, according to a representative for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Units on the scene reported that there was "burning inside" the ballot box, officials said.
It wasn't immediately clear how many ballots may have been damaged in the fire or what their condition was. Baldwin Park Police Commander Chris Hofford told BuzzFeed News the department had sealed the ballots in a box to be retrieved by election officials.
The fire is still under investigation by county fire investigators. The Los Angeles County registrar's office has also reported the incident 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, the registrar-recorder/county clerk, said in a statement.
Election officials are currently reviewing the material recovered from the box and will notify voters whose ballots may have been affected, the registrar's office said. County staff last picked up ballots at the location at about 10:10 a.m. Saturday, about 34 hours before the fire was reported.
As a result of the incident, election officials are now increasing the frequency of ballot pickups at all drop box locations.
“The arson of an official ballot drop box by the Baldwin Park Library in the First District has all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections,” LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement. “Tampering, or attempts to tamper, with our democracy will not be tolerated. Rest assured, LA County residents’ voices will be heard when they vote, including in this election."
The incident comes days after California’s Republican Party came under scrutiny for setting up unofficial ballot boxes for the Nov. 3 election. A lawyer for the party said in a letter Thursday it planned to continue collecting ballots despite a cease-and-desist order by the California attorney general.
More than 3.7 million mail-in ballots have been returned to election officials across the state as of Monday, the secretary of state's office said.