By Zachary Stieber
California Gov. Gavin Newsom exceeded his authority and violated the state Constitution with an executive order that let all Californians vote by mail if they wanted to.
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman ruled Friday that the order, N-67-20, “improperly amended existing statutory law, exceeding the governor’s authority and violating the separation of powers.”
The order stated, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, that “all Californians who are registered to vote in” the Nov. 3 election “must be empowered to vote by mail, as an alternative to in-person voting.”
Newsom, a Democrat, argued that California’s government code gave him the power to issue orders like the one concerning mail ballots, but the judge was not convinced.
The legislative branch makes laws, Heckman said in the 9-page ruling, while the governor and the executive branch sees that laws are faithfully executed.
“The Governor may not exercise legislative powers unless permitted by the Constitution. Article V, Section 1 of the California Constitution does not grant the Governor the power to exercise those functions which have been given to the Legislature, absent the Legislature’s delegation of a portion of its legislative authority to such executive officials or entities through statutory enactments,” the judge ruled.
The ruling voided Newsom’s June order. It also clearly stated that the governor doesn’t have the power to amend laws or make new laws, about a week after the judge said California’s governor cannot do so but can issue orders.
“Gavin Newsom, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of California is enjoined and prohibited from exercising any power under the California Emergency Services Act (Government Code 8550 et seq.) which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy,” Heckman said.
The judge was elected in 2012. Her term runs through 2021.
The case is James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley vs. Gavin Newsom.
Kiley and Gallagher are Republican assemblymen.
“Today, the Court confirmed that Gavin Newsom does not rule California and that we are still a nation of laws. California has not been well-served by one-man rule. A return to representative government will be best for public health and the economy,” they said in a joint statement regarding the ruling.
“The Governor must accept this ruling as a fundamental principle of our democracy and govern himself accordingly.“
Newsom’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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