California Officials Sue Huntington Beach Over Voter Id Law Passed At Polls

Special Assistant Attorney General at the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Damon Brown joins a news conference announcing a lawsuit to protect voter rights at a news conference at the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles, Monday, April. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Special Assistant Attorney General at the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Damon Brown joins a news conference announcing a lawsuit to protect voter rights at a news conference at the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles, Monday, April. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — California officials on Monday sued Huntington Beach over a new law that lets the city require voters to provide identification to cast ballots at the polls starting in 2026.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta said the measure approved by voters in the Southern California city of nearly 200,000 people stands in conflict with state law and could make it harder for poor, non-white, young, elderly and disabled voters to cast ballots.

State officials previously warned that the measure to amend the city's charter would suppress voter participation and are asking a court to block it from taking effect, he said.

“The right to freely cast your vote is the foundation of our democracy and Huntington Beach’s voter ID policy flies in the face of this principle,” Bonta said in a statement while announcing the lawsuit.

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates said the city has the authority to take election-related measures under the state's constitution and will defend the decision of local voters.

“The people of Huntington Beach have made their voices clear on this issue,” Gates said in an email.

The measure was passed by voters this year in Huntington Beach, a city in Orange County dubbed “Surf City USA” that is known for its scenic shoreline dotted with surfers catching waves.

The City Council placed the voter ID measure on the March ballot after taking a series of hotly contested decisions on topics ranging from flag flying to the removal of books from the public library’s children’s section over concerns about the appropriateness of materials. The moves were initiated by a politically conservative council majority, which took office in 2022, and have drawn scores of residents on all sides of issues to city meetings.

The measure — which would let the city require voter identification, increase in-person voting sites and monitor ballot drop boxes in local elections — won at the polls in March with 53%, county election data shows.

Bonta, a Democrat, said it was not immediately clear how the measure would be implemented. In California, voters can cast ballots in person and also by returning ballots to drop boxes or by mail.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters, which operates in the county's 34 cities including Huntington Beach, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Registrar Bob Page said Huntington Beach has not contacted his office regarding how it plans to proceed since the measure was adopted. He said the city could conduct its own local elections or consolidate its elections with statewide general elections and receive services from the county registrar.

Huntington Beach has a history of sparring with state officials over the measures it can take under its city charter on topics ranging from immigratio n to housing.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in Orange County, the GOP is dominant in Huntington Beach with nearly 54,000 registered voters versus 41,000 Democrats, county data shows.