Huntington Beach Voters Approve Voter ID Ballot Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Voters in Huntington Beach, California — the seaside city south of Los Angeles — voted for a ballot initiative allowing city officials to require all residents who want to cast a ballot in municipal elections to show a valid ID. 

The measure, which was approved by 53.4% of voters who cast a ballot in the primary election on March 4, also adds more polling places and authorizes city officials to monitor drop boxes. It took three weeks for election officials in Orange County, where Huntington Beach is located, to tabulate all of the votes, partly because of the high number of mail-in ballots, according to CalMatters. 

In October, the Huntington Beach City Council approved the charter amendment for this week’s primary election, along with two other amendments — one that limits the type of flags that can be flown on city property and another dealing with administrative changes and filling vacancies on the city council. The ballot measure to ban flags passed, while the measure to alter administrative changes and filling vacancies failed in the election.

The voter ID measure sparked controversy in the Huntington Beach community after the city council approved it to be on the primary ballot, with one resident filing a lawsuit to prevent the amendment from appearing on the ballot. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the Orange County Superior Court and the measure remained on this month’s primary ballot.

But the passage of the voter ID measure now sets up a legal showdown as the charter amendment clashes with California state law. Ahead of the election, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) both warned the Huntington Beach City Council that requiring voter ID at polls conflicts with state law and, should the measure pass, they’d stand ready “to ensure it is not implemented in a way that interferes with the right to vote or otherwise conflicts with state law.”

While the votes in Huntington Beach were still being counted, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office said in an email to Democracy Docket that they “plan to take action should [the measure] pass,” but did not provide any further statement at the time of publication.

Voter ID laws have long been promoted by right-wing lawmakers as an effective way to secure elections. But numerous reports and data show that such laws disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately affecting voters from marginalized communities. In 2016, after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Texas’ strict voter ID law, two political scientists used data from the 2014 election to calculate that the law would have disenfranchised at least 16,000 votes if it had been upheld.

Despite the fact that voter fraud is exceptionally rare, numerous red states and red counties have taken steps to introduce discriminatory voter ID laws. Since 2020, eight states have passed new voter ID laws, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures: Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and Wyoming. Collectively, that amounts to 29 million people living under such laws since 2020, according to NBC News

There are seven ongoing cases challenging photo ID requirements across four states: Idaho, Missouri, New Hampshire and North Carolina, according to Democracy Docket’s case database.

Read the newly passed amendment here.

Learn more about voter ID laws here.