Judge: Gavin Newsom Cannot List Himself as ‘Democrat’ on Recall Ballot

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 16: California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a a news co
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A California judge has rejected incumbent Governor Gavin Newsom’s effort to correct an oversight in his filing papers and list himself as a Democrat in the Sep. 14 recall election, meaning that he will face the voters without a party label.

As Breitbart News reported last month, Newsom asked Secretary of State Shirley Weber to grant him lenience after lawyers for the governor failed to list his party preference in responding to the recall, as required by California law.

But Weber refused, so Newsom was required to go to court in an effort to be listed as a Democrat. Superior Court of Sacramento County Judge James P. Arguelles refused to allow Newsom to correct the error, noting that Weber did not have legal discretion to allow it.

In his opinion, via Bakersfield-based KGET, Arguelles noted:

As noted above, Section 11320(c)(3) provides that the elected officer’s party preference “shall not appear” ori the recall ballot unless the officer makes the designation at the time the answer is filed. Under the Elections Code, the term “shall” is mandatory whereas “may” is permissive. (§ 354.) Section 11320(c) unambiguously obligated Secretary Weber to deny Governor Newsom’s request to designate his party preference after he filed his answer.

Governor Newsom argues that the aim of SB 151 was to provide voters with party information signaling the elected officer’s policy positions and social concerns. He reasons that strict compliance with the deadline in Section 11320(c) would undermine this aim.

But regardless, it is clear from both the text and the legislative history that SB 151 does not consider information about an elected officer’s party affiliation so vital to voters that it must be included on the ballot.

Moreover, it is worth repeating that Section 11320(c) not only imposes a deadline but commands that a statement of party preference “shall not appear on the ballot” if the officer fails to submit the statement by the time the answer is due.

The court credits assertions that Governor Newsom and his counsel inadvertently neglected the deadline, but inadvertence is not the same as reliance on official advice. Circumstances do not justify excuse from the deadline. (Cf. lmagistics lnternat., Inc., supra, p. 595, Robie, J., concurring [“[E]very lawyer in California should have a sign posted in his or her office which says ‘Never do anything on the last day or at the last moment‘”], italics in original.)

Newsom’s defeat in court is somewhat ironic, given the thicket of regulations that his administration typically enforces.

Notably, Then-President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Arguelles to the federal bench in the Eastern District of California, last year, but his confirmation was not completed before the Senate changed hands and Trump left office.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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