California Bill Would Block Cities From Requiring IDs to Vote

If passed, the measure would apply statewide, encompassing all municipalities including the 108 charter cities, overriding local election codes.
California Bill Would Block Cities From Requiring IDs to Vote
People check in before casting their vote at the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office in Norwalk, Calif., on Sept. 14, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
Travis Gillmore

With voters in Huntington Beach, California, set to decide on March 5 whether U.S. citizenship and showing identification should be required to cast a ballot in the city, a newly introduced bill would overrule any local laws that require an ID to vote.

Senate Bill 1174, introduced by state Sen. Dave Min, would prevent local governments from enforcing or enacting regulations requiring voters to present identification at polling locations. If passed, the measure would apply statewide, encompassing all municipalities, including California’s 108 charter cities—which differ from the other 370 cities across the state by following charter laws to govern municipal affairs instead of state law.
“Healthy democracies rely on robust access to the polls,” Mr. Min said in a Feb. 15 statement announcing the legislation. “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.”

Claiming that the pandemic-era practice of mailing a ballot to every registered voter in the state was an “overwhelming success” with no evidence of fraud, the lawmaker said voter ID laws are discriminatory.

Mr. Min said voter ID laws can make it more difficult for “seniors, people of color, young people, and other historically marginalized groups” to participate in democracy.

“I am proud to introduce SB 1174 to prevent this practice in Huntington Beach and any other city that wants to constrain the voting rights of Californians,” he said.

Existing state law requires some form of identification for first-time voters and those who recently registered to vote by mail but did not provide a driver’s license number on the registration form. Acceptable forms of identification include utility bills and any piece of mail sent by the state government, according to the secretary of state’s website.

Proponents of the voter ID measure on the ballot in Huntington Beach suggest that the issue is a matter of electoral integrity.

“Huntington Beach voters deserve the right to know that our elections are secure. It is crucial for our democracy that voters have faith in the election results,” Mayor Tony Strickland and Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark said in a joint statement published in the election information guide. “That trust in the outcome of elections comes into question when we don’t know who is voting.”

Concerns of potential voter fraud arose after the 2020 elections, when widespread vote-by-mail access accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up to 20 percent of voters mailing in ballots potentially committed fraud during the election, according to a December 2023 survey conducted by nonpartisan polling firm Rasmussen Reports and The Heartland Institute—a public policy think tank based in Illinois.

But some argue that the city’s proposal is unnecessary because they believe that elections are already secure.

“There is no evidence of voter fraud in Huntington Beach that requires such a drastic, costly, and risky overhaul,” city councilmembers Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser, and Rhonda Bolton wrote in rebuttal arguments in the election guide.

A September 2023 letter sent to the city by the state’s attorney general’s office argued that the charter amendment is in violation of state and federal law and threatened legal action if the measure passes.
“Huntington Beach’s proposed amendment violates state law and would impose additional barriers to voting,” Rob Bonta, state attorney general, said in a statement at the time. “If the city moves forward and places it on the ballot, we stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that voters’ rights are protected.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland (C) conducts a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland (C) conducts a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach Civic Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Jan. 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Such action is needed to protect the democratic rights of all Californians, he said.

“The right to freely cast your vote is the foundation of our democracy,” Mr. Bonta said. “State election laws are in place to ensure the fundamental right to vote without imposing unnecessary obstacles that can reduce voter participation or disproportionately burden low-income voters, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, or people with disabilities.”

The official in charge of overseeing elections, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, agreed that voters of color have been historically disenfranchised and said existing laws are sufficient to ensure secure elections.

“We cannot turn back the clock on voting rights,” Ms. Weber said in the attorney general’s statement. “Not only is [Huntington Beach’s] action unlawful, it is also unnecessary because California already has guardrails in place for establishing both eligibility of each voter and for confirming their identity when returning their ballot.”

She pointed to signature verification to confirm legitimacy and the recounting of some ballots as evidence that elections are secure.

Across the nation, 34 states require identification to vote on election day, with 13 mandating photo ID to satisfy eligibility requirements.

SB 1174 awaits assignment from the Senate Rules Committee and will be debated by lawmakers in the coming weeks. If the bill passes, the attorney general will not have to take any further action to block Huntington Beach’s election measure in the event it is approved by voters.