Gov. Gavin Newsom is suing his own secretary of state in a bid to fix a mistake he made in filing his paperwork for the pending recall election.
Courthouse News reported that Newsom on Monday sued California Secretary of State Shirley Weber he enable him to correct a filing error he made 16 months ago.
Unless he is successful, Newsom will be the only person listed on the recall ballot who will not have the option of adding a party preference after their name. No date has been set for the recall election.
In the lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, as reported by Courthouse News, the governor warns that Weber’s decision will confuse voters and upend the intent of a law he signed less than two years ago to provide voters with more information.
“The voters would be deprived of the very information the legislature has deemed important for them to receive, all because the governor’s counsel inadvertently failed to file a form about the governor’s ballot designation at least 16 months before the recall election has been called,” the lawsuit states.
In the past, party preferences for office-holders facing recall weren’t listed on the ballot —as was the case in 2003 when former Governor Gray Davis was recalled — but following the successful recall of a Democratic state senator, the legislature and Newsom agreed in 2019 to make the update.
“By providing additional identifying information on the ballot, voters are able to make a more informed choice when deciding to retain or remove an individual from office,” states the legislative analysis for Senate Bill 151, as reported by Courthouse News.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday, Newsom’s lawyers filed an answer to the recall petition in February 2020 but didn’t file a notice of party preference with the secretary of state’s office. His lawyers discovered what they called a “good-faith mistake” earlier this month and appealed to Weber, also a Democrat.
She rejected their claim, which prompted the lawsuit.
Newsom acknowledged the filing error but claims Weber can make changes because she has not yet certified the recall vote, and no election date has been set.
Last week Weber announced the recall effort will proceed to the ballot.
In 2003, California voters swapped Democratic Governor Gray Davis for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in a recall vote.
Unlike the previous five attempts to recall Newsom, the latest easily qualified after gaining steam during the pandemic, with more than 1.7 million signatures — 225,000 more than what’s needed to trigger a recall.
Initially it was presumed the election would be set for November, but in recent weeks California Democrats have indicated it could be pushed up earlier. The majority party is looking to set the election as early as possible as coronavirus restrictions have largely been lifted and Newsom continues to enjoy relatively strong polling numbers.
Newsom on Monday signed legislation that will allow Weber to certify the recall before lawmakers and finance officials have completed a formerly required 30-day review of likely recall costs.
The rule change was introduced earlier this month by Democratic lawmakers after it became crystal clear the recall had qualified. Critics have accused the majority party and Newsom of “changing the rules during the middle of the game.”
“The secretary of state’s office has a ministerial duty to accept timely filed documents. Acceptance of filings beyond a deadline requires judicial resolution,” Weber’s chief spokesperson Joe Kocurek told Courthouse News when asked about Newsom’s lawsuit.
Newsom and his lawyers with Olson Remcho of Oakland, California, want the court to rule on the matter by July 12, saying the matter will likely play out further in an appeals court.
“Petitioner’s statutory rights, and the right of California voters to be accurately and fully informed about the recall election, will be irreparably injured if real party Weber is not ordered to accept Newsom’s party preference election,” the emergency petition concludes, according to Courthouse News.