The California Republican Party last week sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to prohibit ballot harvesting for the upcoming special elections on May 12, to avoid risks to public health and safety in light of COVID-19, California Globe reported.
Receiving no response from the governor, the CAGOP filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court asking Governor Newsom to prohibit ballot harvesting ahead of the May 12 Special Elections in Congressional District 25 and State Senate District 28.
“Governor Gavin Newsom has yet to make clear that ballot harvesting stands in direct conflict with the social distancing guidelines he claims to support,” said California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson. “The governor’s stay-at-home order clearly prohibits ballot harvesting, and we are asking him to break his silence and prohibit the practice ahead of California’s Special Elections.
“Governor Newsom has told Californians that they can’t open their businesses, their kids can’t go to school, and they can’t attend family events including weddings and funerals. If we can’t see our mothers on Mother’s Day, then strangers should not be visiting our homes to collect ballots. He must stop dodging this issue. His silence is irresponsible and is putting Californians’ lives at risk – and without direction from the Democrats in office, we need the courts to weigh in,” Patterson said.
In the letter to the governor last week, CAGOP Chairwoman Patterson explained:
“It is true that in-person voting presents risks to public health and safety in light of COVID-19. It is also true that other activities in connection with voting present the same risk (or even higher) that must be mitigated during this historic event.
As you know, Section 3017 of the Elections Code ordinarily allows a vote by mail voter to “designate any person to return the ballot to the elections official who issue the ballot” on their behalf. (Elec. Code § 3017(a)(2).)
During normal times, this may involve a stranger visiting a voter’s home and offering to return the voter’s ballot to the elections official. During these times, this activity presents an intolerable risk to public health and safety.”
Patterson’s letter was in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide “Stay-at-Home Order” March 19, 2020, directing all California residents to shelter in place unless they were essential workers.
On March 20, 2020, Gov. Newsom issued another Executive Order applying specifically to the May 12 special elections in California’s 25th Congressional District and California’s 28th State Senate District, which declared that although the state’s Election Code would normally determine the special election be held using in-person voting, because of COVID-19 and social distancing measure, the election would be conducted as an all-mail election.
The California Republican Party is now asking Gov. Newsom to suspend other provisions of the Election Code, specifically permitting a voter to designate any other person to return a ballot – or ballot harvesting – because they present the same dangers as in-person voting.
Attorneys Harmeet Dhillon, Mark Meuser and Gregory Michael filed the lawsuit on behalf of the CAGOP.