Appeals Court Allows Congressional Candidates to Challenge California’s Election Laws

Appeals Court Allows Congressional Candidates to Challenge California’s Election Laws
People cast ballots on electronic voting machines for the midterm election during early voting ahead of Election Day inside a vote center at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 2022. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Brad Jones

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an election integrity case involving complaints from congressional candidates in 13 counties across California has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s election laws, regulations, policies, and procedures in federal court.

The case has been sent back to a federal district court in Los Angeles court for discovery, moving the litigation forward, the Election Integrity Project, California (EIPCa) announced Nov. 21.

EIPCa and the 13 co-plaintiffs have alleged that the state has “weakened or removed integrity from the election process.” The lawsuit names as defendants California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and the registrars of voters in the 13 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside.
Weber declined to comment on the case on Nov. 23. “We do not offer comment on pending litigation,” said spokesman Joe Kocurek.

Alleged Threats to Election Integrity

EIPCa cites California’s system of vote-by-mail ballots, ballot harvesting, reduced voting facilities for in-person voting, and the extended time allowed to count votes as potential threats to election integrity.

The organization claims that even though the U.S. Constitution gives authority to state legislators to pass laws to manage elections and process ballots, they don’t have the power to pass laws “that diminish the value of the lawfully cast ballots.”

The lawsuit further alleges that over the last decade, California has passed laws, orders and regulations that have led to “massive irregularities,” culminating in the 2020 election, when Governor Newsom authorized mailing a ballot to all “active” registrants on the voter rolls and former Secretary of State Alex Padilla, now a U.S. Senator, “gutted” signature verification requirements.

“EIPCa received over 700 affidavits signed under penalty of perjury from EIPCa-trained observers who consistently reported election workers not adequately verifying signatures and, in some cases, counting ballots without signatures,” EIPCa stated in a press release. “Because neither the state legislature nor Alex Padilla required uniform and secure vote casting and counting procedures, uneven procedures were applied across counties.”

‘Huge Step Forward’

U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. previously dismissed the case with prejudice, ruling in August 2021 that none of the plaintiffs had standing. EIPCa appealed the case to the 9th Circuit and a three-judge panel reversed the decision Nov. 3.

Mariah Gondeiro of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, the lead attorney for EIPCa and the co-plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times the ruling is a “huge step forward.”

The discovery process will allow the plaintiffs to look into “the scope of the irregularities that are occurring because of California’s election laws and procedures ... so we can ask questions and get information and actually audit the counties and the ballots,” Gondeiro said.

“This lawsuit is monumental, because it is the first to challenge the constitutionality of California’s election laws and procedures, and we are the first to get past standing,” Gondeiro said in an earlier statement. “If we win, California will be required to enforce secure and uniform vote casting and vote counting procedures.”

EIPCa President Linda Paine told The Epoch Times that if the organization wins the case, and California methods are ruled unconstitutional, it could set a precedent for legal challenges in other states such as Arizona and Nevada which have adopted California-like election policies.

“I am confident we win, because we have so much solidly documented evidence,” she said.

Tracking California’s Elections

Paine additionally said in a statement that the group has documented and tracked every aspect of California’s election process since the organization was founded 12 years ago.

“We are now seeing California style laws in states across the country creating the same problems that have been witnessed and documented by EIPCa-trained observers in California for years,” she said.

EIPCa, a citizen watchdog group, has opposed several recent legislative bills that have changed how California has run its elections. The organization, Paine said, is comprised mainly of retired professionals who volunteer their time to observe elections. Over the years, the non-profit, nonpartisan organization has utilized 20,000 volunteers.

“We have done this because we love our country, and we see what’s happening,” she said. “Our goal has always been to provide the very best documented evidence of exactly how California laws, regulations, policies and procedures are impacting the ability to have a fair, honest and transparent election.”

The co-plaintiffs consist of former and recent congressional candidates, all Republicans, including James P. Bradley, Eric Early, Mike Cargile, Jeff Gorman, Buzz Patterson, Mark Reed, Aja Smith, Alison Hayden, Kevin Cookingham, Chris Bish, Ronda Kennedy, Greg Raths, and Johnny Nalbandian.

Bradley, who ran for U.S. Senate but lost in the June 7 primaries, told The Epoch Times the 9th Circuit ruling is “a big win.”

Changes to the Election Process

The first amended complaint in the lawsuit alleges that California’s election process included “near-universal vote-by-mail (‘VBM’) balloting, while eliminating chain-of-custody and signature verification protections, treating in-person voters differently from VBM voters, and sending ballots to large numbers of ineligible voters.”

“This endangers many of California’s most vulnerable populations, including the young, the elderly, and non-citizens. It has also led to pervasive irregularities in the election process that threaten to disenfranchise California voters,” according to the complaint.

Additionally, it accuses the state, which has a Democratic supermajority, of intentionally orchestrating “an onslaught of unconstitutional statutes, regulations, executive orders, and voting practices which, taken together, are designed to create an environment in which elections could be manipulated and eligible voters of all political viewpoints disenfranchised.”

EIPCa states the case is not a partisan issue but a constitutional one that has affected many candidates in more than one election.