Fortunately, the court order does not invalidate ballots that have already been cast or are currently on their way to polling stations.
A Sutter County judge ruled that California Governor Gavin Newsom had exceeded his authority by ordering that postal ballots be sent to the state’s 22 million registered voters.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sutter County Supreme Court Justice Sarah Heckman issued an injunction prohibiting the governor from taking any executive action that “[change] existing statutory law or making new statutory law or legislative policy. “
Heckman’s decision, the Times says, is a major reprimand for Governor Newsom.
Newsom, like many other Democratic governors in the United States, has extensively used the executive powers of its office to issue orders to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Many of Newsom’s recent directives were intended to extend access to elections for a year. Voters may not feel comfortable visiting polling stations in person.
However, Heckman said that Governor Newsom’s order to require California to email ballots and take other precautions related to coronavirus was in violation of the state constitution, as the governor’s actions effectively created a new set of laws.
Under the California Constitution, only state legislation has the authority to make laws.
Judge Heckman also noted that the law Newman cited – the Emergency Services Act, or ESA – only gives the governor the power to “suspend certain laws, not amend laws or create new ones.”
Gavel with law books; Image by wp paarz, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Heckman’s decision, however, does not mean that California voters who have already voted by mail will see their ballots invalidated or discarded. With state law later passing a law codifying many of Governor Newsom’s executive actions, Heckman’s decision will not affect the upcoming election.
The Los Angeles Times adds that despite Heckman’s reprimand of the governor’s claim under the ESA, legal experts do not expect the injunction to affect Newsom’s other orders regarding social distancing or mandatory mask use.
Heckman’s decision has since been lauded by Republican lawmakers, who have filed lawsuits against Gov. James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin).
“This is a victory for the separation of powers. The governor has continued to create and change the state law without public contribution and without the consultation process provided by the legislature, ”the two said in a statement. “Today the judiciary again gave him the check that was needed and required by the constitution.
“Nobody denies that measures should be taken to keep people safe in an emergency,” she continued. “But that doesn’t mean we are putting our constitution and free society on hold by centralizing all power in the hands of one man.”
Gallagher, according to the Enterprise Record, was quick to reiterate that his lawsuit was impartial and was only intended to contain governors’ overreach rather than attacking Newsom personally.
“It was never political, it was never partisan,” he said. “This decision will affect everyone who is governor, not just that governor, but those in the future as well. That’s the key. It is about respecting the balance of power and the basic separation of powers, which are fundamental to our government. “
“Regardless of who is governor in the future,” said Gallagher, “this precedent will govern your actions.” I think everyone should celebrate this. This baseline was drawn in the sand today. “
Court judgments against Newsom’s Mail-In-Ballot Executive Order
Governor Newsom has been reprimanded by the Sutter County Court for exercising executive power amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Judge side with James Gallagher in lawsuit against Gavin Newsom