Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter in California was struck down by a district judge in Sutter County.
The issue is not whether or not mail-in ballots can or should be sent to everyone. The judge struck down the order due to the fact that the decision must be decided by the State Legislature and even in a time of crisis, Gov. Newsom is not allowed to completely circumvent the law.
The challenge to the executive order was brought by several leaders, including Republican Assemblymen James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley.
“This is a victory for separation of powers. The governor has continued to brazenly legislate by fiat, without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature,” the two assemblymen said in a statement. “Today the judicial branch finally gave him the check that was needed and that the Constitution requires.”
In addition, Judge Perry Parker stated that the executive order was an “impermissible use of legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution.”
In response, numerous Democrats have voiced their disagreement with the decision. Jessie Melgar, the governor’s press secretary, stated that “we are disappointed in this initial ruling and look forward to the opportunity to brief the court on the issues raised for the June 26 hearing.” Secretary of State Alex Padilla went further and called the assemblymen’s legal challenge “a reckless publicity stunt” and later proceeded to go completely off the rails by saying that the decision was “a continuation of the Republican Party’s plan to throw our democracy into chaos.”
Wanting the rule of law to prevail in society is not some conspiracy to destroy democracy in California. Gov. Newsom does not get to decide which laws to follow and which ones to ignore. This decision over mail-in voting is constitutionally delegated to the Legislature, which passed AB 860 this week to allow for statewide mail-in ballots to be disseminated. The bill passed the State Senate 31-7 and the State Assembly 68-5. Gov. Newsom officially signed the legislation into law on Thursday.
Putting the merits of mail-in voting aside, the constitutional legislative process is vital to upholding our institutional legitimacy, and the lawsuit successfully ensured that this process would be preserved.