9th Circuit Hears Far-Right Challenge to California’s Mail-In Voting Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hold oral argument in a fringe right-wing lawsuit challenging California’s mail-in voting system. 

Hand inserting mail voting ballot into an official county drop box on October 17, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Adobe Stock)
Hand inserting mail voting ballot into an official county drop box on October 17, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Adobe Stock)

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an “election integrity” group, Election Integrity Project California (EIPCa). The lawyers on the case, Advocates for Faith & Freedom list their mission as: 

“Advocates for Faith & Freedom safeguards the constitutional liberties that define the United States as a beacon of freedom and prosperity, including religious freedom, free speech, election integrity, parental rights, and the rights of children, both born and unborn.” 

The plaintiffs argue that California voting laws, regulations and guidelines that have created universal mail-in voting, opened online voter registration, allowed for community ballot collection, regulated poll observers and otherwise expanded voting are unconstitutional. Specifically, the plaintiffs assert that California Assembly Bill 860, Assembly Bill 37, Senate Bill 503, Senate Bill 397, Senate Bill 450 and several sections of the California Code of Regulations that pertain to elections are unconstitutional. 

The right-wing group alleges that the defendants violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment by “implementing laws, regulations, and procedures that diminish the value of in-person voters, including EIPCa’s observers and Plaintiffs in their respective counties.” The group requests an audit of all mail-in ballots, “remade or duplicated ballots, adjudicated ballots, and other documents used to cast votes in all elections since the November 2020 election” along with an order to preserve and audit all voting equipment. 

A previous iteration of this lawsuit included a radical independent state legislature theory argument that suggested the defendants “violated the Elections Clause by usurping the California State Legislature’s constitutional authority to set the manner of elections,” but the complaint has since been amended to drop that claim along with certain plaintiffs. 

On June 14, 2021, a federal court dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed this to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed some of the plaintiffs claims, voided the district court’s holding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit and sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings. 

The district court dismissed the case two years later, in July 2023, but plaintiffs again appealed to the 9th Circuit, which is hearing the case today. The appellants are asking the court to reverse the lower court’s order dismissing the case arguing that “California lacks uniform vote counting procedures, inherently disadvantaging voters in certain counties.” 

Mail-in voting is a huge success in California with 86.72% of voters utilizing it in the 2020 general election and 87.52% in 2022. Yet right wing groups continue to attack this extremely secure and safe method of voting. The 9th Circuit will determine if this extremely fringe case will continue. 

Learn more about the case here.