Assemblyman James Gallagher (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
On Friday, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Perry Parker granted a temporary block on Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order that requires all registered California voters to receive a mail-in ballot for the upcoming November election.
Mandatory mail-in ballots in California temporarily on hold
Assemblymen James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) had petitioned Judge Parker for the block by citing that Governor Newsom had overstepped the bounds of his emergency powers when he was the sole lawmaker in Sacramento capable of making laws during the two months of the coronavirus pandemic when the state Legislature couldn’t meet. A concurrent charge of going around the state Assembly and Senate was also given.
The Assemblymen gave a joint statement on Friday after the halt was announced.
“This is a victory for separation of powers,” said the Assemblymen in a statement. “The governor has continued to brazenly legislate by fiat, without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature. Today the judicial branch finally gave him the check that was needed and that the Constitution requires.”
With the hold in place, and AB 860, the Assembly bill that would also allow for ballots to be mailed to all Californian voters, not yet passed and signed, the state will currently not be able to send out ballots for the November election. A lawsuit by the RNC in California against the executive order that notes the potential chaos of having ballots going to inactive voters and others the state currently thinks are valid has also added further fuel to the mandatory vote-by-mail ballot fight.
Sutter County court block draws ire from state, Democrats
The judge’s block and subsequent rollback drew anger from many prominent lawmakers Friday night.
“This is a reckless publicity stunt,” stated California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
AB 860 author Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) shot back that not having such a law in place would only bring chaos to the polls, even with bills such as SB 423 guaranteeing that a minimum number of in-person voting centers would be available in each county.
“Today’s lawsuit challenging the legality of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order is exactly why, two days
Assemblyman (D) Marc Berman.
after the election debacle in Wisconsin in early April, I introduced legislation to require that every California voter receive a ballot in the mail for this November’s General Election,” said Assemblyman Berman in a statement. “Chaos reigned in Wisconsin, where Governor Evers’ Executive Order was overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court just days before their primary election, creating confusion over what the voting rules were and leading to the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters. While I am confident that Governor Newsom’s Executive Order would prevail in California, the passage of AB 860 will provide certainty for our voters and our elections officials. I am proud that AB 860 received strong bipartisan support in the Senate, and I look forward to debating the bill in the Assembly and sending it on to Governor Newsom for his signature next week.”
The debate over mandatory vote-by-mail ballots is expected to continue into June. AB 860 will be debated in the Senate next week and Judge Parker has scheduled a hearing over the Executive Order for June 26th.
“By the end of the month we should know for sure if Californians will automatically get ballots in the mail,” said voting center organizer Shelly Nichols. “From past elections I know that presidential years are the biggest ones for overall turnout. So that’s going to have more people vote.”
“Voting is sacred. We have to make damn sure that we’re doing the right thing by voters. Every person ever who has instructed us on collecting ballots on election days has stressed that. 2020 shouldn’t be any different.”
Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at email@example.com.