San Diego Republican Issa leads legal fight against mail-in voting order

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SAN DIEGO (CNN) — Former Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican running for Congress in San Diego, is part of a lawsuit aimed at halting California’s effort to expand mail-in voting in the upcoming November election.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Issa and a group of voters in Sacramento district court on Thursday to stop Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent statewide mandate that would send absentee ballots to all registered voters. Also named in the lawsuit is California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The story was first reported by Politico and Court House News.

Issa will face off with Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in November to represent the 50th Congressional District, a sprawling region of eastern and northern San Diego County. The seat was vacated by Rep. Duncan Hunter after a campaign finance scandal. Learn more about the race here.

The mail voting complaint specifically argues that Newsom’s executive order violates elections provisions of the Constitution, “Under the the Elections Clause, only the State of California, ‘by the Legislature thereof,’ is authorized to change the time, place, and manner in which Californians will choose their senators and representatives.”

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“The all-mail system ordered by Newsom is an unlawful attempt to supersede and replace California election law” by “imposing an entirely new system without the many qualifications required” by existing state law, the Voter’s Choice Act, which stipulates the requirements needed to send voters a mail-in ballot,” read the complaint.

Earlier this month, California became the first state to make voting by mail in November an option due to the coronavirus pandemic. The shift also marked the first time in the state’s history that ballots will be mailed to every registered voter in the state. The state is not moving to mail-only, however, and in-person voting will remain an option.

Democrats have largely pushed for additional access to mail-in voting as Americans are increasingly nervous about going to the polls in person. The Democratically-led states of Nevada and more recently Michigan have announced the mailing of an absentee ballot application to all voters.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have lambasted Democrats over the voting shift, saying the election is now susceptible to voter fraud.

This argument was reiterated in Thursday’s filing, which mentioned that the new mandate will lead to “controversies over the validity and legitimacy of the outcomes of the pending federal elections, or of any elections held pursuant to those procedures.”

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Other grievances mentioned in the lawsuit include Issa, who is running for California’s 50th congressional district, having to “reevaluate his electoral strategy” as a result of the Newsom’s executive order that is also increasing his costs for running for office.

“Previously, he registered to run for office based under the electoral system established by the California Legislature. Now, he must develop a new strategy to reflect that he is no longer running under an electoral system established under California law,” read the court filing.

Padilla fired back that the lawsuit was “un-American, immoral, and a threat to the health of every Californian.”

“Exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to justify voter suppression is despicable, even for Judicial Watch’s pathetically low standards,” Padilla said in a statement to Politico and Court House News.

CNN has reached out to Newsom and Padilla for additional comment.

Issa was first elected to Congress in 2000 representing a San Diego-area district, where he served until 2019, after announcing he wouldn’t seek reelection, according to his official congressional biography. He is running to win the vacant seat once filled by the embattled former Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter. During his time in Congress, Issa was chairman of the House Oversight Committee and had a reputation for being a fierce opponent of Hillary Clinton and presided over contentious hearings into the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups.

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