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Huntington Beach, state of California fight over voter ID implementation in city elections

“California as a state right now is in a race to the bottom to weaken election laws,” Jason Snead said.

Published: February 21, 2024 11:00pm

Huntington Beach, Calif., is letting voters decide next month on whether to require voter ID in local elections while the state legislature is seeking to prevent cities from implementing the election-security measure, arguing that it would cause voter suppression. 

The Orange County city, known for being among the most conservative in the liberal state, is allowing voters to decide themselves on the matter in a March 5 primary.

The state requires voters to present a form of identification only when they are voting for the first time and is pushing back against the city’s election integrity measure.

In October, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 4-3 to place three charter amendments on the city’s primary ballot next month. One of the amendments would allow the city run its own elections, rather than the county administering them. Another amendment would, starting in 2026, require voters to present photo identification before casting ballots. 

The California attorney general and secretary of state sent a letter to the City Council a week prior to the vote, saying the proposed amendment “conflicts with state law and would only serve to suppress voter participation without providing any discernible local benefit.”  

The letter also states if the city moves forward and places the voter ID amendment on the ballot, "we stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that voters’ rights are protected, and state election laws are enforced.” 

After the City Council voted for the amendment to be placed on the ballot, former Huntington Beach planning Commissioner Mark Bixby sued over the amendment, claiming "it violates the constitutional rights to vote and state law.” 

In December 2023, an Orange County judge declined to block the ballot measure, ruling that Bixby wanted "the judiciary to serve as an auditor of what the electorate may consider for the supposed purpose of preserving democracy.”

However, “If this measure were to pass, and if its implementation raises an issue of constitutionality, at that point, it may be appropriate for judicial review," the judge wrote

Following the failed lawsuit, a Democrat state senator introduced a bill in the legislature earlier this month that would prevent local governments from implementing voter ID, starting in 2026. 

The bill’s author, state Sen. Dave Min, said, “Healthy democracies rely on robust access to the polls. That’s why in California we follow the facts when it comes to the overwhelming body of evidence that voter ID laws only subvert voter turnout and create barriers to law abiding voters.” 

He also said “voter ID laws can make it more difficult for seniors, people of color, young people, and other historically marginalized groups from participating in our Democracy."

The Huntington Beach mayor disputed such arguments.

During the City Council meeting in which the amendment was voted on, Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark said, "I’m Hispanic. I had an ID as a teenager. We were poor. Not ignorant." 

She also said it’s racist to imply that minorities are incapable of having identification. 

Also, according to polling, voter ID is a popular election integrity measure.

A July poll by the Honest Elections Project found that 88% of registered voters support photo ID requirements for voting. 

Only 9% say such requirements should be eliminated because some voters may lack an ID. A total of 80% of respondents preferred that free IDs be offered to voters who do not have one, which states with voter ID requirements already do. 

Similarly, an October 2022 Gallup poll found that 79% of Americans support requiring a photo ID to vote at polling places. 

As the election integrity measure is popular among voters, a majority of states have enacted voter ID legislation

According to an analysis by the Movement Advancement Project:

  • 11 states require photo ID to vote and have additional steps that are required if the voter doesn’t have an ID;
  • Four states require non-photo ID and have additional steps that are required if the voter doesn’t have an ID;
  • 13 states request photo ID but do not have additional steps that a voter has to go through if they don’t have the ID; and
  • 22 states and Washington, D.C., don’t request ID or request non-photo ID without having additional steps for a voter to complete if they don’t have the ID.

Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, told Just the News on Tuesday that “California as a state right now is in a race to the bottom to weaken election laws.” 

“California lives in a post-factual reality, that is all about the narrative and what helps left, and have to silence the public on voter ID,” he said

“Those saying this is discriminatory or a racist policy are on the fringe, and don't speak for the vast majority of the population. If we get a couple more states with voter ID, we’ll have enough states to pass a constitutional amendment to require it.” 

Snead said that the left claims that voter ID makes it “harder to vote and discriminates.”

However, he noted that “every state that has it has seen voter turnout go up, and overwhelming bipartisan voter consensus that everyone who goes to vote should show ID.”

One state in particular that saw increased voter turnout after implementing voter ID was Georgia.

In 2021, Georgia passed S.B. 202, which implemented election integrity measures, including voter ID. Following its enactment, MLB announced it was moving its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, citing President Joe Biden's claim that the law would "restrict voting access for residents of the state," according to a statement by the league at the time. The game was moved to Denver.

Biden had blasted the law, likening it to "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

However, Georgia had a record voter turnout in the 2022 midterm election, “with more votes cast than any other midterm,” according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

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