By DARRELL ISSA
All registered voters in California should have the opportunity to cast their vote by mail.
Ballot access isn’t a new idea. More than 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision.”
That’s why I have always supported California’s longstanding practice of mail ballot voting. Because our elections are made up of important candidate contests as well as consequential judicial elections, complex initiatives and detailed local measures, the ability to vote from home allows everyone to research questions with their ballot in-hand.
A series of recent actions by Gov. Gavin Newsom, however, are threatening both the practice of voting by mail and the confidence that every Californian is supposed to have in our elections. Worst of all, they will exacerbate the very real flaws that already exist in our elections system.
First is the 1990s-era “motor voter” law that combined getting a driver’s license with getting registered to vote. This might have made sense as a theory, but in practice, it has created a serious problem that has put unknown numbers of noncitizens on the California voter rolls. The exact number is not known because there is no public database of U.S. citizens to cross-reference, and California law does not allow registrars to request proof of citizenship from those registering to vote.
I know this to be true. During my service in Congress, I met many noncitizens (some here legally, some not), who required help with our immigration system. In dozens of instances, they were registered to vote — frequently by the DMV carrying out motor voter.
Second is California’s newer state law allowing the political practice of “harvesting” by individuals who gain possession of an individual’s ballot and become the guardian and deliverer of votes. This helped to overturn numerous 2018 election results in which Republicans led by thousands of votes after Election Day but were then defeated by even more harvested ballots.
Third is the governor’s recent executive order essentially declaring California a vote-by-mail state by sending more than 5 million ballots to voters who did not request one, a list that includes deceased voters, those who haven’t voted in years, or who have moved from their registered address and can’t be verified.
When combined, this terrible trifecta of political policies will ensure that every election in the state will be vulnerable to inaccuracy, mistake and even outright fraud on an unprecedented level.
Last month, I was forced to file suit against the governor and allow the courts to stop this obvious overturn of election law and hold him accountable. This is because Gov. Newsom and his party allies in Sacramento have violated the plain language of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”
Simply put, we are making it clear that the governor may be a powerful officeholder, but he is neither a legislature nor a king. Like anyone, he is free to propose a change in the law. But he is exceeding his authority to simply use a stroke of his pen to try and make it a reality.
There is a better way. That is why I wrote recently to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the registrars of voters in San Diego and Riverside counties to encourage each of them to act within their legal authority to mail an application for an absentee ballot to all registered voters, who are not already a permanent absentee voter, and let them decide — not Gov. Newsom — if they wish to use it.
For the integrity of our elections, and to reaffirm the principle that all of us, even a governor, are not above the law, California must ensure the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of our elections.