Darrell Issa | Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo
OAKLAND — Republican congressional candidate Darrell Issa and a conservative group are suing to block California’s move to an all-mail November election.
They are legally challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive that elections officials mail every registered voter a ballot for the November election, making California the first state to switch to vote by mail due to coronavirus concerns. Newsom called the move a necessary response to the pandemic since voters at crowded vote centers could be exposed if they cast in-person ballots.
Newsom’s move won praise from Democrats last week, including former senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But Republicans have seized on the move as an attempt to interfere with the November election, and the Republican National Committee said it was weighing its legal options after Newsom’s executive order.
The conservative group Judicial Watch filed a challenge in Sacramento’s U.S. District Court to block Newsom’s executive order on behalf of plaintiffs that include Issa, a Republican former congressman vying this year to return to the House to represent a San Diego-area district.
The complaint argues that Newsom’s order violates elections provisions of the Constitution and represents an “unlawful attempt to supersede and replace California election law” by creating “an entirely new system” that does not conform with an existing state law, the Voter’s Choice Act, which lays out requirements for counties that wish to mail ballots to all voters.
It warns that election results could be invalidated, specifically citing the 50th District contest in which Issa is the Republican nominee. And the complaint charges that Newsom’s order has scrambled Issa’s campaign by compelling him to “reevaluate his electoral strategy” and increasing the cost of running a campaign.
Issa “registered to run for office based under the electoral system established by the California Legislature,” the complaint says. “Now, he must develop a new strategy.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla fired back that the lawsuit was “un-American, immoral, and a threat to the health of every Californian.”
“Exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to justify voter suppression is despicable, even for Judicial Watch’s pathetically low standards,” Padilla said in a statement.
California Republicans have also objected to Newsom’s vote-by-mail order, saying he has improperly wielded his executive authority in enacting a sweeping elections change by fiat.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized mail balloting for undermining Republicans and inviting fraud, frequently insinuating without evidence that California elections have been skewed by improper vote-counting.