Investigative Reports

California Republicans Made Massive Gains in 2022 with New Election Strategy - Is This the Key to Winning 2024?


While the red wave may not have materialized as fully as Republicans hoped, with the help of some key California victories, the GOP now controls the House. What’s more, they may have ballot harvesting to thank.

The Democrats’ use of ballot harvesting is no secret. They were fast to capitalize on the 2016 California election law that allowed for someone other than the voters themselves to return ballots.

In the past, Republicans have strongly opposed the election tactic. But according to Hector Barajas, a California Republican Party strategist, it is time to fight fire with fire, and the Democrats are not happy about it.

“It’s hypocrisy at its worst. I mean, they are crying foul over the rules that they implemented. What it’s done is it’s leveled the playing field for Republicans,” Barajas told The Western Journal.

“They’re not going to change the rules because they’ve benefited from it for several years; they’re just upset that we’ve figured out what the rules were and we started playing by those rules.”

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In 2020, Alex Padilla, then California secretary of state, issued a cease-and-desist letter to California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Patterson. The letter was also addressed to the party chairs of Orange, Fresno and Los Angeles counties.

The party had set up unofficial drop boxes across the state in locations frequented by Republicans: churches, gun shops, GOP headquarters, etc. One of those drop boxes read, “Official Ballot Drop Off Box,” The Orange County Register reported.

“We had a volunteer who ended up putting a piece of paper on the box,” Barajas told The Western Journal. “And wrongfully he put there, ‘Official Ballot Box.’ Someone took a picture of it and that’s where … everything went bananas.”

Barajas said the secretary of state tried to sue the California Republican Party, but ultimately the case was thrown out in court because the practice was legal.

Since implementing the tactic, California Republicans have benefited in a major way, including during the 2022 midterm elections.

Should Republicans utilize ballot harvesting?

The re-election of key Republican California representatives, such as Young Kim, Michelle Steel, Mike Garcia and David Valadao, all helped the GOP reclaim the House.

Paula Whitsell, chairwoman of the Republican Party of San Diego, shared her thoughts with The Western Journal on the impact of ballot harvesting in the 2022 election.

“Overall, I’m satisfied with the results we had in the election here in San Diego County, and a part of that could be attributed to the fact that we ballot harvested,” Whitsell said.

“I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to do because people need to be responsible for their own ballots. But the reality is, in California, ballot harvesting is legal. So my position is we have to play by the rules that we have been given. And here in California, those are the rules.”

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While legal in California, it is not in many states. Nevertheless, Barajas believes Republicans across the country should understand the strategy.

“I think [Republicans] need to understand what ballot harvesting is. They need to start putting together how to engage in it, how to go out and utilize all the techniques that we’ve been using in California … because should it become something where it does go into their state, the last thing they need to do is be an election cycle behind,” he said.

“We’ve got to be good at doing it all. We’ve got to be good about having people turn in their ballots early — voting on Election Day and … turning in their ballots. And we’ve got to be good on all of it. And now you throw in your third piece, which is your ballot harvesting,” he said.

“If the other side is better than you at one of those three, it could swing the election one way or another.”

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Ole Braatelien is a social media coordinator for The Western Journal. He currently attends Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication.