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OAKLAND, Calif. — The Republican Party has thrown its full weight behind challenging California’s move to a mail-ballot November election during the coronavirus pandemic.
A lawsuit from the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party seeks to invalidate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that county election officials mail every registered California voter a ballot. While Newsom and California election overseers have said the switch is necessary to balance public health with civic participation, opponents argue that Newsom has overstepped his authority.
The lawsuit argues that Newsom exceeded the limits of his powers by not seeking the consent of the state Legislature, accusing him of a “brazen power grab” that “was not authorized by state law” and transgressing the Constitution.
Republicans in California and nationally have battled efforts to expand remote balloting for the November election, warning that mail ballots increase the risk of voter fraud. President Donald Trump has amplified that critique, including a string of Memorial Day weekend tweets, and additionally bemoaned mail ballots on the grounds that they disproportionately benefit Democrats.
A complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California emphasizes those arguments, alleging that Newsom has “created a recipe for disaster” with an ill-conceived voting plan.
“No State that regularly conducts statewide all-mail elections automatically mails ballots to inactive voters because it invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting,” it states. “Fraudulent and invalid votes dilute the votes of honest citizens and deprive them of their right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Newsom was already facing legal challenges to his all-mail election order, including one filed last week by former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is seeking to return to the House this year. The governor said Friday that he believed he was well within his authority.
“We’re on firm legal ground,” Newsom said, arguing that “public health is a nonpartisan issue.”
Millions of California voters already participate in mail-focused elections thanks to a state law that encourages counties to send ballots to all registered voters in an effort to lift participation.