Posted on April 28, 2024

California Sues Huntington Beach for Voter-Approved ID Requirement for Elections

Kenneth Schrupp, Center Square, April 18, 2024

California Attorney General Rob Bonta and Secretary of State Shirley Weber filed a lawsuit against the City of Huntington Beach over its voter-approved ID requirement for voting in city elections starting in 2026.

While Bonta alleges the city’s requirement violates state election law because the city tends to consolidate its elections with federal and state elections, city lawyers say the legislature’s ongoing attempt to pass a state law banning local voter ID requirements demonstrates such a law does not exist.

The voter ID measure, approved by 53.4% of city voters in the March 5, 2024 election, requires voters to prove they are citizens, 18 or older, and residents by showing government-issued identification. The ballot measure also approved proposals to require the city to monitor ballot drop boxes and provide more handicapped accessible polling locations.

Bonta has also warned drop box monitoring could go against state law banning video recording with the “intent of dissuading another person from voting.” Bonta did not elaborate how city recording of ballot boxes could dissuade voting.

In a letter to Huntington Beach before the election, Bonta explained the city’s ID requirement would violate state election law saying: a voter’s identity or eligibility to vote may only be questioned by election workers on narrow grounds, and only with evidence constituting probable cause to justify such a challenge; a challenged voter need only take a sworn oath of affirmation to remedy the challenge; and all doubts are to be resolved in favor of the challenged voter.

“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,” wrote Bonta.

In its defense, the city cites the state constitution, which says city charters provide, “in addition to those provisions allowable by this Constitution, and by the laws of the State,” say over “conduct of city elections” and “the manner in which, the method by which, the times at which, and the terms for which the several municipal officers and employees whose compensation is paid by the city shall be elected or appointed.”