A former GOP operative who became the face of the California Republican Party's use of ballot drop boxes for the November election says his life has been ruined by the controversy.
Jordan Tygh, a USC graduate, says he was just following orders. Tygh, who is also a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, said the GOP's ballot harvesting program was legal and approved by party lawyers. But he was the one who took the fall for the controversy.
The former GOP operative says after California Republicans got steamrolled by Democrats in the 2018 election, they realized they had to start their own ballot harvesting operation in 2020 to compete.
But how they did it, ignited a circus of controversy. Tygh says he was the one who fell on the sword for it.
"I had a lot of damage to my reputation. If you google my name, it's just criminal, felony, election fraud. All this stuff."
It all began in October 2020 when Tygh, a regional director with the California GOP in Orange County posted on social media that he was asked to promote the GOP's use of what was labled as an official ballot drop box.
"We were told that we were going to be doing ballot harvesting operations, that we were gonna have these boxes in our office for people to come and drop the ballots off that we could harvest ourselves and bring to the registrar of voters," Tygh said. "The program was heavily vetted by the GOP attorneys so there was never any question in my mind as a low-level operative that this was something illegal or criminal."
Tygh's tweet, however, ended up going viral for all the wrong reasons.
"Twitter started going out of control, people were accusing me of setting up a fake ballot box, accusing me of a felony, and I was alerting my supervisors to this like look this is getting a lot of attention," he said. "We’ve got to do something about this. They told me to keep my head down, that the Democrats were just trying to intimidate me and everything was good, everything was legal."
But Tygh says the California GOP waited more than a day to announce the ballots were their operation and told him to keep his head down.
"They weren’t coming public or admitting it, so a lot of those initial stories were about me as an individual, that I was this criminal, election fraudster setting up these illegal ballots," Tygh said.
The drop boxes were later deemed to be legal in court. And while the California Attorney General's Office did launch an investigation into GOP's use of the boxes, the investigation was dropped and no charges were filed after the GOP agreed to stop labeling the boxes as "official."
The AG's Office issued the following statement, in part:
"Despite public confusion caused by representations made by members of the California Republican Party and their initial deployment of unauthorized ballot collection boxes, we are confident that the election was safe and secure in California."
Meanwhile, the California GOP is pointing the finger at the AG's Office, issuing a statement, in part:
"The California Secretary of State and Attorney General could have just placed a call or sent an email asking for clarification on our ballot harvesting program. Still, they chose to create a media circus on something that the courts deemed legal."
As for Tygh, he remains in the middle. He told FOX 11's Bill Melugin that the hate mail and death threats were overwhelming. Tygh says he has struggled to find any work and that his name is tarnished. In the wake of all the controversy, Tygh said he had to move to South Carolina to live with his family.
"A lot of people won’t touch me, I’ve had all these false accusations, it’s affected my social life, people think I’m a criminal," Tygh said. "I would rather lose an election than cheat one, when I joined the military I took an oath to defend the constitution, and even though I’m out now, the oath still stands."
Tygh says he hopes that sharing this story will eventually fix his reputation. The California GOP says Tygh's work for them was important and that he's high on the list of people they hope would find new opportunities.