Calif. Gov. Newsom Overstepped His Authority on Mail Ballot Order, Judge Rules

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• November 3, 2020 1:48 pm


A California judge on Monday ruled that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D.) order requiring all registered voters to automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot was outside his authority.

Sutter County Superior Court judge Sarah Heckman issued a tentative ruling that the governor cannot issue executive orders that interfere with state law, but her ruling will not affect Tuesday's election, according to KCRA News 3 in Sacramento.

"Gavin Newsom, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of California is enjoined and prohibited from exercising any power under the California Emergency Services Act … which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy," Heckman wrote in her tentative ruling. She will issue a full ruling in the coming days.

The plaintiffs in the case, Assemblymen James Gallagher (R.) and Kevin Kiley (R.), sued Newsom on the grounds that his executive orders sidestepped the legislative process and was in violation of the state’s constitution. Gallagher and Kiley said in a joint statement that "the California Emergency Services Act does not provide for one-man rule."

"The governor has continued to create and change state law without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature," the assemblymen said. "Today the judicial branch again gave him the check that was needed and that the Constitution requires."

Executive order N-64-20, issued in May, required all 22 million registered voters in the state to receive a vote-by-mail ballot delivered no later than Oct. 5. Newsom's lawyers argued that the case against his order was moot because state lawmakers later passed legislation to send out the ballots, but questions about the limits of his emergency authority will likely persist during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

When the tentative ruling was handed down, the governor's office insisted that Newsom's emergency powers allowed him to issue such orders.