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California Bill Blocking Local Voter ID Laws Passes Senate

California Bill Blocking Local Voter ID Laws Passes Senate

A man checks the ID of a voter before giving them a ballot at an early voting location in Fairfax, Virginia on September 18, 2020. - Early in-person voting for the 2020 general election kicked off on September 18, 2020 in Virginia (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

5/29/2024

Updated: 5/29/2024

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A proposal that would prohibit local governments in California from enacting voter ID laws cleared the Senate floor May 21 on a 30–8 vote.
Senate Bill 1174, authored by Sen. Dave Min, would block all cities—including charter cities, which have more control over their affairs—from requiring individuals to present government issued identification before voting or submitting ballots at polling locations.
The author said the bill is needed to create a statewide standard and to prevent cities across the state from enacting their own policies which he believes could create uncertainty and inequality.
State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) speaks at a press conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) speaks at a press conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Oct. 6, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

“SB 1174 would try to address this matter and ensure that local jurisdictions cannot impose their own voter ID requirements to try to engage in culture wars and try to disenfranchise voters,” Mr. Min said on the Senate floor May 21.
He suggested the push for voter ID laws in some cities and states across the country are the result of questions lingering from the 2020 presidential election.
“This big lie has been an unfortunate part of a narrative driven by Donald Trump and certain of his supporters to try to cast aspersions on the integrity of elections, even when we have not seen any evidence to show that widespread voter ID is an issue,” Mr. Min said in the bill’s April 2 hearing of the Senate’s Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. “And yet, nonetheless, we have seen voter ID laws pass in a number of states which harken back to an era of Jim Crow type barriers to voting.”
Citing a belief that requiring an ID to vote would disenfranchise voters, he argued that the bill is needed to protect the electoral process.
“Healthy democracies rely on robust access to the polls,” Mr. Min said in legislative analyses. “Voter ID laws are discriminatory and only make it harder for seniors, people of color, and other vulnerable groups to participate in our democracy.”
First-time voters in California are required to show identification if they did not provide a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number when registering, though the Secretary of State allows student IDs, credit or debit cards, or an ID provided by a commercial establishment for such.
Mail-in ballots that do not include appropriate identification are treated as provisional ballots, as per existing state law, and elections officials are advised to request proof before counting them. In the most recent statewide general election in 2022, 660 ballots were rejected due to a lack of positive identification.
Voters in the City of Huntington Beach, which is a charter city, approved March 5 during the primary election a stricter voter ID law requiring a government ID to vote.
Rob Bonta, California’s attorney general, and Shirley Weber, the secretary of state, sent a joint letter before the measure passed contesting the proposal and claiming it was in violation of state law.
They argued existing laws require sworn oaths instead of ID verification and resolve all doubts in the favor of challenged voters and that such is sufficient to secure elections while protecting voters’ rights.
“This framework strikes a careful balance: it guards the ballot box against ineligible and/or fraudulent voters, while at the same time simplifying and facilitating the process of voting so as to avoid suppressing turnout and disenfranchising qualified voters,” the letter read.
They also said the Orange County city’s new law works against state requirements and places the burden of proof on voters.
“By requiring additional documentation to establish a voter’s identity and eligibility to vote at the time of voting—a higher standard of proof than set out in the Elections Code—Huntington Beach’s proposal conflicts with state law,” the letter read. “Indeed, the City’s proposal would arguably constitute ‘mass, indiscriminate, and groundless challenging of voters.’”
Supporters of the bill said it will ensure Huntington Beach and other cities are prevented from enacting such measures.
“Huntington Beach’s position ignores case law that makes the voter ID measure invalid because, one, voting rights and election integrity are matters of statewide concern, and two, the measure conflicts with state law and burdens voting rights,” Ruth Dawson, legislative attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union California Action, said during the April 2 elections committee hearing.
She suggested the city’s initiative will be struck down legally.
“Huntington Beach’s measure will no doubt be successfully challenged in court, and in the meantime, SB 1174 will stop any other cities from attempting to pass similar measures that spread misinformation about the integrity of our elections,” Ms. Dawson said.
One lawmaker in support of the bill said it is needed to protect voters while doubting that any election malfeasance occurs in California.
“Anything that we can do to restore [some] sort of sense and dignity to the electoral process is a good thing, because ... there are no problems with voter fraud in California,” Sen. Josh Newman said during the committee hearing. “There are problems with politics, but let’s take the politics out of elections.”
Critics said the Huntington Beach measure should be allowed to stand and called the bill an attempt to wrest control from local governments.
“This is another attempt to just do away with local government control,” Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen said during the committee hearing. “I encourage my colleagues to join me in standing up for local government and local control, because every day, everything we do [in Sacramento] is just pounding on local cities and not allowing them to do what they do best and what they know is best for their residents.”
She also questioned the thought that voter ID laws disenfranchise voters and noted that state IDs are required to access many situations in California—including at the airport, at bars and nightclubs, and to enter the secretary of state’s building in Sacramento, among others.
“It’s a government ID that we all use for everything else we do every day, all day long,” Ms. Nguyen said. “Are you saying that none of these facilities should have any requests?”
Having passed the Senate, the bill will next be heard by respective committees in the state’s Assembly in the coming weeks.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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