Republicans sue California in latest battle over expanded mail voting

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and two other Republican groups on Sunday filed a lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom over his executive orders to use mail-in ballots for the November election.

Several lawsuits have arisen, with parties generally on opposite sides of what could be big 2020 issue

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued executive orders to use mail-in ballots for the election in November. (Gabriela Bhaskar/Reuters)

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and two other Republican groups on Sunday filed a lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom over his executive orders to use mail-in ballots for the November election.

California was the first state in the country to commit to sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the November election, a move responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections," RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The RNC said that voting by mail creates an opportunity for fraud.

"No state that conducts all-mail elections automatically mails ballots to inactive voters because it invites fraud, coercion, theft and otherwise illegitimate voting," it added.

The sentiment echoes comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for mail-in voting, proclaiming frequently — without evidence — that such balloting is riddled with fraud.

The lawsuit asks for Newsom's order to be barred as unlawful and was filed by the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party.

Numerous studies have found little evidence of voter fraud connected to voting by mail.

Mail accounted for 25% of midterm vote total

Mail-in balloting has emerged as another highly charged issue in America's polarized politics. Republicans in states across the country are engaged in legal battles to stop Democratic attempts to expand mail-in voting in response to the biggest U.S. health crisis in a century.

In Texas, the Democratic Party and a coalition of voters and civil rights groups have filed several lawsuits to expand mail balloting in light of the coronavirus. The Republican-led state government opposes those efforts, arguing mail ballots are prone to fraud and there's not enough time or money to implement such a sweeping change.

In Nevada, several conservative groups have sued to block Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak's plan to hold congressional and local primaries in June entirely by mail, arguing that, among other things, it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Last week, Trump denounced plans to expand voting by mail in Michigan and Nevada. He briefly threatened to withhold federal funding for the two states. It was unclear if he would have the authority to do so, but Trump eventually dropped the warning after an avalanche of criticism from Democrats.

A report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission says the process was used by about one-quarter of all voters in the 2018 midterm elections, representing about 30 million votes. The total was more than that of in-person, early voting, which represented one-fifth of the total, with just over half voting in person on election day.

Along with the five states that vote entirely by mail, 28 states will allow voters to request a mail ballot without any excuse in November, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

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