California Officials Sue Over Huntington Beach Voter ID Ballot Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C. — California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber (D) filed a lawsuit today against the coastal city of Huntington Beach over a voter ID ballot initiative. 

Voters in Huntington Beach approved a ballot measure on March 5 that requires all residents who want to cast a ballot in municipal elections to show a valid ID. The measure was introduced and approved to be on the primary election ballot by the Huntington Beach City Council in October, along with two other amendments — including one that limits the types of flags that can be flown on city property, like LGBTQ flags. That measure was also approved by Huntington Beach voters in March.

“The right to freely cast your vote is the foundation of our democracy and Huntington Beach’s voter ID policy flies in the face of this principle,” Bonta said in a statement. “State election law already contains robust voter ID requirements with strong protections to prevent voter fraud, while ensuring that every eligible voter can cast their ballot without hardship. Imposing unnecessary obstacles to voter participation disproportionately burdens low-income voters, voters of color, young or elderly voters, and people with disabilities.”

At the time that the Huntington Beach City Council approved the voter ID measure to appear on the primary ballot, Bonta and Weber warned that legal action would be taken, should it pass, stating that the measure violates state election law. A Huntington Beach resident filed a lawsuit to block the measure from appearing on the ballot, but an Orange County Superior Court ruled in December that the proposed amendment should remain on the primary ballot.

In the lawsuit filed today, Bonta and Weber allege that the voter ID measure is not valid because charter cities have the right to municipal affairs so long as they don’t conflict with state law governing a “statewide concern.” The lawsuit explains that California’s process for determining voter eligibility already requires people registering to vote to provide identifying information to ensure they’re qualified.

The right-wing push for voter ID laws has increased in recent years, based on disinformation and conspiracy theories that noncitizens and other ineligible voters are casting ballots en masse in the last few election cycles. But the reality is that voter fraud is extraordinarily rare and numerous reports and data show such that voter ID laws disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately affecting voters from marginalized communities

According to Democracy Docket’s litigation database there are currently four ongoing cases challenging photo ID requirements across two states: New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“This voter ID measure conflicts with state law,” Weber added in the statement. “Not only is it a solution in search of a problem, laws like these are harmful to California voters, especially low-income, the elderly, people of color, those with disabilities, and young voters.”

Read the lawsuit here. 

Learn more about voter ID laws here.