California’s chief law enforcement officer and top elections administrator are warning Huntington Beach politicians against moving forward with voter ID ballot proposals.
The proposal, which first surfaced in July, would require residents to show identification at polling locations and would institute ballot box monitoring by city officials – if city voters adopt it.
“Specifically, the City’s proposal to require voter identification at the polls in municipal elections conflicts with state law and would only serve to suppress voter participation without providing any discernible local benefit,” Attorney General Rob Bonta and CA Secretary of State Shirley Weber told city council members in a Thursday letter.
Huntington Beach’s voter ID proposal has been facing criticism from residents.
It was put forth by Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilmembers Gracey Van Der Mark and Pat Burns, who make up the new Republican majority on the city council, along with Councilman Casey McKeon.
McKeon, while initially expressing resistance to amending the city’s charter, supported the voter ID proposal at a special meeting last week.
“To me, it’s just increasing faith in our elections and increasing voter turnout,” McKeon said Sept. 21.
The voter ID proposal requires changing the city’s charter, which would need voter approval in the form of a ballot proposition.
At Thursday’s special city council meeting, City Attorney Michael Gates said Huntington Beach would likely survive Bonta’s legal threats.
“The letter reads largely as a policy concern and it does keep talking about how these issues are a matter of statewide concern for the state,” Gates said. “I think it’s a stretch to say that voter ID in Huntington Beach and monitoring of ballot boxes is a statewide concern.”
Click here to watch the meeting.
Gates also called the legal threat “specious,” adding he won’t think it will hold up in court.
But that’s not how state officials see it.
“Accordingly, we respectfully urge you to reject this proposal. If the proposal moves forward and is ultimately passed, we will take action to ensure that any monitoring system implemented by the City does not interfere with the right to vote or otherwise violate state law,” wrote Bonta and Weber.
Huntington Beach is no stranger to court battles with California officials.
At the beginning of the year, Surf City officials disregarded a state-mandated housing plan.
Bonta then sued the city.
Huntington Beach, in turn, sued the state over the housing mandates.
In a previous interview with Voice of OC, Strickland said the voter ID proposal is about security.
“Our democracy does not work if people do not have faith in the election results,” Strickland said. “Anytime you can put safeguards in I think it’s important to do so people have faith in our election outcomes.”
But courts across the country since 2020 have found no widespread voter fraud.
Huntington Beach’s proposal also calls for a type of ballot box monitoring system – something Bonta and Weber warn against.
“Until the City provides further details about how this proposal would be implemented, it is not clear that the City even has the authority to enact such a measure, or whether or how it might conflict with existing law and regulations,” reads the joint letter.
In a Thursday news release, Bonta warned legal action could be coming.
“Huntington Beach’s proposed amendment violates state law and would impose additional barriers to voting. If the city moves forward and places it on the ballot, we stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that voters’ rights are protected.”
Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
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