California GOP sues Gavin Newsom over ballot 'harvesting' ahead of May special elections

California GOP is arguing the practice will violate social distancing and stay at home restrictions

Published: April 30, 2020 9:46am

Updated: April 30, 2020 10:12am

The California Republican party has filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to try to prevent so-called “ballot harvesting” in two upcoming special elections.

Ballot collecting – or "harvesting" – involves campaign workers and volunteers collecting mail-in ballots from voters’ houses, then bringing them in groups to polling stations.

In 2016, California changed its laws to allow any person to collect a mail-in ballot, whereas it used to be restricted only to family members of the voter or those living in the same household.

The California GOP is arguing that such practices would violate social distancing guidelines and directly conflict with Newsom’s shelter-in-place order.

The governor failed to respond to a letter sent several weeks ago asking that the process be halted, prompting the filing of the lawsuit.

"The governor has dodged his responsibility," California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson said, “We’re hoping the courts will compel him to clarify.”

Ballot harvesting has long been an election practice utilized more by Democrats than Republicans. Some Republicans are opposed to the practice, while others think the party needs to focus efforts on mobilizing collection volunteers to catch up with the Democrats.

This lawsuit is focused on two upcoming special election, scheduled for May 12 in California’s 25th and 28th districts. The former is to fill the congressional seat left vacated by Democrat Katie Hill, who resigned last year following a sex scandal and a congressional ethics investigation.

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