A superior court judge in Sacramento on Monday denied a request by Gov. Gavin Newsom to force California Secretary of State Shirley Weber to include his Democratic Party affiliation on the recall election ballot, despite the fact the Newsom missed a filing deadline.
In an 11-page decision, Judge James Arguelles said "Secretary Weber had no ministerial duty to accept the untimely designation."
The decision comes after a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by Newsom's lawyers asked the court to compel Weber — a Newsom appointee — to include the governor's party affiliation next to his name on all recall ballots sent to voters.
In the June 28, 2021 suit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, Newsom's attorneys acknowledged an "inadvertent but good faith mistake on the part of his elections attorney" in not including the governor's Democratic Party affiliation when the recall response papers were filed with the secretary of state in early 2020, as required by law.
Candidates who want their names included on the recall ballot as potential successors to Newsom have until this Friday to file the required paperwork to the secretary of state, including their last five years of personal income tax returns and party affiliation.
The recall election has been set for Sept. 14.
Many political observers noted the irony of a governor suing his own hand-picked but independent election official, who refused his request because it was not filed by the legal deadline. To some it had the appearance of a kind of "palace intrigue," revealing an unexpected clash between two fellow state Democrats.
To others, though, it exemplified the arrogance of a governor trying to get the state's top election official to basically do him a favor by disregarding a law that he had signed. That perception of hubris had already been established last year, after revelations that Newsom attended a birthday party for a lobbyist at an upscale Napa Valley restaurant, at a time when he was publicly urging Californians to stay home and wear masks to slow spread of the coronavirus — an incident that helped fuel the effort to recall him.
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, has long believed that a secretary of state best serves the voters by not being partisan or helping one party over another.
"If any election official is asked to do something that is not clearly defined in the law, the appropriate thing to do is to ask them to seek a court order," Alexander said. "That's the right response no matter whois asking," she said, adding that she hoped the governor would ultimately get to include his party affiliation, "since it is vital election information that helps voters make their decisions."
According to Senate Bill 151, the 2019 law Newsom signed that outlines recall election procedures, "If the officer did not state a political party preference on the officer’s affidavit of registration, the statement shall read: 'Party Preference: None.' " (Full Story)