California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom got some bad news on Friday when a judge ruled that he overstepped his legal authority by mandating that every legal voter in his state receive a mail-in ballot for the general election. This ruling reportedly will have no impact on the 2020 election.
Back 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 order was issued as part of the California Emergency Services Act, or CESA, which gives Newsom special powers during a public emergency, in this case the coronavirus pandemic, according t0 KCRA-TV.
Sutter County Judge Sarah Heckman, however, was not having any of it. She ruled on Friday that the executive order overstepped Newsom’s legal authority because he does not have the power to amend a law that already exists.
“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’s ruling stated. “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.”
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This ruling came after two Republican California Assembly members, James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, filed a lawsuit arguing that Newsom’s order exceeded his authority because he amended existing state law, which falls under the authority of the California State Assembly.
Newsom’s attorneys tried to argue that the entire issue was moot because the California Assembly later passed a similar law, but Judge Heckman disagreed. She ruled that the issue was not just about Newsom’s actions on mail-in ballots, but whether he has the power “to exercise legislative powers by unilaterally amending, altering, or changing existing statutory law or making new statutory law.”
The judge then ruled definitively that the California Emergency Services Act “does not give the Governor the power or authority to amend statutory law or create new statutory law even during a state of emergency.”
Finally, Heckman explained that Newsom’s order violated the legal doctrine of separation of powers.
“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.
This piece was written by James Samson on November 15, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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