A California judge ruled on Friday that Gov. Gavin Newsom overstepped his legal authority when he mandated that every state voter must receive a mail-in ballot for the general election.
In June, Newsom issued an executive order declaring that “all Californians who are registered (and otherwise eligible) to vote in the November 3, 2020 General Election shall receive vote-by-mail ballots.”
This was a part of the California Emergency Services Act, which affords Newsom additional powers during a public emergency, which, in this case, was the coronavirus pandemic.
But according to Sutter County Judge Sarah Heckman, this executive order is unconstitutional because it goes beyond Newsom’s legal authority.
He can only enforce the existing law, she said, and the vote-by-mail mandate was an attempt to create law instead.
“Executive Order N-67-20 issued by the Governor on June 3, 2020 is void as an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power and shall be of no further force or effect,” Heckman wrote, according to KCAR-TV. “The California Emergency Services Act (CA Government Code §8550 et seq.) does not authorize or empower the Governor of the State of California to amend statutory law or make new statutory law, which is exclusively a legislative function not delegated to the Governor under the CESA.”
The heart of the problem was Newsom’s attempt “to exercise legislative powers by unilaterally amending, altering, or changing existing statutory law or making new statutory law,” she continued.
“The doctrine of separation of powers prohibits any of the three branches of government exercising the complete power constitutionally vested in another or exercising power in a way which undermines the authority and independence of another,” she wrote.
The ruling comes after two California Assembly members — James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley — sued Newsom, alleging that he had overstepped his bounds and infringed on the legislature’s rights.
Gallagher and Kiley, both Republicans, celebrated Heckman’s ruling and said it is time the state returns to representative governance.
“California has not been well-served by one-man rule. A return to representative government will be best for public health and the economy. The Governor must accept this ruling as a fundamental principle of our democracy and govern himself accordingly,” they said in a joint statement.