SACRAMENTO, CA—Today, the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, and Community Coalition in South Los Angeles filed a motion to intervene in Republican National Committee v. Newsom, which was brought in response to Governor Newsom’s executive order requiring mail-in ballots to be automatically sent to all registered California voters for the November general election. As both major political parties are involved in the case, these voting rights groups seek to intervene on behalf of impacted voters.
Nationwide, 25 percent of Americans already vote by mail. Just this year, at least 16 states have postponed elections or moved to conduct them by mail to ensure voters can cast ballots from the safety of their homes. Mail ballots have been used by both Republican and Democratic politicians alike.
“As our leaders wage a political fight around mail-in ballots, the League knew we needed to step in to protect voters’ rights and bring their voice to the table,” said Stephanie Doute, executive director of the League of Women Voters of California. “Right now, voters—especially those in high-risk categories—are weighing how to keep themselves safe while they exercise their right to vote. These same voters are the ones who traditionally struggle with fair ballot access. We cannot allow political games to drown out the voter’s perspective. Voters must be the priority as we head into another important election.”
"These lawsuits are filled with baseless claims about vote-by-mail being rife with fraud and California's elections being poorly run. They are light on facts and heavy on partisan rhetoric," said Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director at California Common Cause. "We seek to defend the Governor's Executive Order to ensure access to the ballot for all California voters, but we also hope to protect California's approach to elections, which has always put voter access first without sacrificing security."
"This lawsuit is important to CoCo because ensuring everyone has the opportunity to exercise their right to vote is of utmost importance especially in this moment that we are currently living in,” Hector Sanchez, deputy director of Community Coalition said. “Sending a vote-by-mail ballot to every voter will show Black and Brown people that California is committed to all communities participating in our democracy."
Due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters are seeking to cast their ballots by mail at highly increased rates. Senior voters, voters with disabilities, immunocompromised and chronically ill voters, Black voters, and Latinx voters are at higher risk of serious illness due to COVID-19. These groups could be especially harmed without access to a safe, reliable mail-in voting option in November. Additionally, language minority voters and voters of color experience disproportionate obstacles in the ballot application process. These voters are protected from this risk when ballots are sent automatically.
“Around the country, we have seen voters opt for vote-at-home options to ensure their safety during this pandemic,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Even before the pandemic hit, voters were increasingly taking advantage of mail-in options. Voters have clearly shown that vote-by-mail is a valued choice for casting their ballots. Now is especially not the time to stand in the way of voter access.”
The three voting rights advocacy groups are represented by Public Counsel, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.
“Mail-in voting is the sensible way to maximize voter turnout and protect public health in the time of COVID-19. It’s how President Trump votes,” said Jesselyn Friley, attorney at Public Counsel. “The RNC lawsuit is all about reducing access to the ballot box by making exercise of the franchise a life-threatening risk, and as with so many consequences of the pandemic, this risk will fall disproportionately on communities of color.”
“Sadly, a political party has filed suit in order to make it more difficult and less safe for people to vote. Our clients are intervening in order to make sure that the voices of those whose rights are in jeopardy – the voters – are heard,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“It has never been more important to ensure that eligible voters can exert their fundamental right to be heard and participate in the upcoming election, especially during this current public health crisis,” said John Libby, partner with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. “Manatt is proud to work with our clients and co-counsel to support Governor Newsom’s executive order to send mail-in ballots to every active registered voter in California for the November election.”
The League of Women Voters of California, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to people of all ages and gender identities. With 100 years of experience, the League is one of America’s most trusted grassroots organizations.
California Common Cause is a nonpartisan advocacy organization working to build a California democracy that includes everyone.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JUNE 10, 2020
Elizabeth Leslie, LWV California, eleslie [at] lwvc.org, 916-442-7215
Linda Owens, California Common Cause, Lowens [at] commoncause.org, 929-245-1500