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Officials discourage California voters from disinfecting and microwaving ballots

The state has received at least 100 damaged ballots with signs that a microwave or sanitizing spray was used.

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Staff holding ballot with gloves on.
Staff holding ballot with gloves on.
(Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
Updated: October 13, 2020 - 5:10pm

California voting officials are warning voters not to disinfect or microwave ballots after the state received at least 100 ballots returned with damage.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, some California voters are taking their own precautionary measures to ensure their mail-in ballots are germ-free. The registrar's office claims that damaged ballots returned to the state show signs of an attempt to disinfect the paper, with what officials presume to be an alcohol-based sanitizing spray, according to a KCRA news report.

"Voters do not have to worry about contracting COVID from their mail-in ballots," said Courtney Bailey-Kanelos, registrar of voters in Sacramento County.

At least one ballot shows signs that it was microwaved. Authorities warn voters that these actions could make the ballots unreadable to the electronic ballot-counting machines. 

"We understand if for the outgoing white envelope that you get that maybe the mail service carrier may have touched, you want to kind of hold that aside for 24 hours," Bailey-Kanelos said. "Everything inside the pink return envelope, the ballots themselves, they have been inserted by a machine weeks ago, so they are safe."

A new study says that the virus can stay on some surfaces for up to 28 days, which may further encourage these drastic measures.