Federal judge launches trial of Republicans in California echoing Trump election fraud allegations
A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit brought by Republicans in California that echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the validity of the 2020 election.
The lawsuit, filed in January by a conservative election monitoring group and 10 defeated GOP congressional candidates against a host of state and county election officials, claimed that the November election in California was riddled with “massive irregularities and possibilities of fraud “.
The plaintiffs argued that such conditions had been brewing in California for years, but were exacerbated by changes made last year to ensure all voters in the state had access to a ballot. vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But those arguments, similar to claims made in dozens of other lawsuits challenging the 2020 election, have been dismissed.
Federal Judge Andre Birotte wrote in a 13-page ruling released Tuesday that plaintiffs failed to provide concrete evidence that problems affected the November election result in California. Birotte also said he agreed with the defendants’ statement that the trial amounted to “a gradual erosion of confidence in election results, past and future”.
The defendants in this case – including officials who run elections in many counties in California – have praised Birotte’s decision and reasoning for the decision.
“I think the judge agrees with what we have certainly known from the start that this election was conducted with the most intense scrutiny I have ever faced,” said Neal Kelley, who has served as Orange County Registrar of Electors for 18 years and was one of 13 county registrars named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“All the audits and checks and balances that we put in place have shown that the will of the voters has been respected,” Kelley added.
The case claimed that by sending mail ballots to every registered voter, California opened the door to fraudulent voting. (Before the Emergency Orders, about 75% of California voters and all registered voters in Orange County were already receiving mail-in ballots.) The prosecution also repeated baseless claims made by Trump’s personal lawyers. regarding the use of Dominion voting systems and that election observers could not get close enough to the counting process to see what was going on.
Similar claims have been made in around 100 cases filed across the country since November. More than 60 of these cases have failed. The Brennan Center for Justice Monitoring of disputes relating to voting rights says 33 such cases are still pending in 13 states plus Washington, DC, but this is the latest case the Brennan Center has tracked in California.
The California lawsuit was filed Jan. 4 in Los Angeles Central District Court by Election Integrity Project California, a nonprofit watchdog group linked to the conservative Public Law Foundation. The nonprofit is fighting for tighter voter control measures and sending people out to observe how ballots are processed on election day.
10 candidates who ran for California convention in 2020 and also supported the lawsuit, including Greg Raths of Mission Viejo, James Bradley of Laguna Niguel, Aja Smith of Moreno Valley, Eric Early of Los Angeles, Alison Hayden of Hayward, Jeffrey Gorman from Santa Cruz, Mark Reed from Sunland, Buzz Patterson from Sacramento, Mike Cargile from Pomona and Kevin Cookingham from Clovis.
The group lodged a complaint against three state officials: Governor Gavin Newsom, former Secretary of State Alex Padilla and former Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They also sued 13 county clerks who cover districts affected by defeated congressional candidates, including election officials from Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The original request asked the judge to decertify the November election results. But the plaintiffs subsequently dropped that request in an amended complaint, though they still requested an audit of the paper ballots (similar to the controversial third-party audit currently underway in Arizona) and a repeal of the orders. emergency services that sent ballots to all registered voters.
The 44-page lawsuit contains no specific allegations about falsely counted ballots or damage to any particular candidate. Instead, the plaintiffs argued that the votes could have been watered down due to the potential so that invalid votes are counted.
They cite anecdotal reports, for example, that ballots were left unattended and that validation of signatures on mail ballots “was not carried out or was carried out so quickly as to fail. ‘could not have been effective “. (Of the nearly 18 million ballots cast by Californians in the November election, nearly 50,000 were rejected because a signature did not match.)
In response to the complaint, attorneys for state and county officials said the allegations of electoral irregularities and potential fraud “represent little more than a list of scattered idiosyncrasies in the electoral process.” Instead, they argued, the real purpose of the lawsuit is to “make it harder for Californians to vote.”
Defendants’ lawyers also noted that plaintiffs waited two months after the election to file a complaint, although some of the election laws they complain about have been in place for months, if not years. With the winners already in office, the response to the lawsuit states that “the plaintiffs – made up of a non-profit corporation and unsuccessful California congressional candidates who are said to be intending to run for office in 2022 – are now seeking to cancel the will of the Californian people “.
The defense further argued that the plaintiffs “questioned past election results and sought to reverse decades of efforts in California to expand access to the ballot box,” noting that the allegations echoed allegations about ” fraud and irregularities… which have been debunked and dismissed by state and federal courts across the country. “
The defendants’ response notes that “more than 680,000 fraudulent votes would have had to be counted for the election result to have been changed for all plaintiffs”. Their margins of defeat ranged from 28,747 votes, in Raths’ loss to Democrat Katie Porter of Irvine, to 165,238 votes, in Gorman’s loss to Democrat Jimmy Panetta of Carmel Valley.
“For such massive electoral fraud to go unchecked, a myriad of election officials, their staff and volunteers, as well as government leaders would have to be active and willing participants,” notes the response to the lawsuit. “In particular, the complainants did not identify any evidence of this type of a scheme, as there was none. “
In his 18 years as a registrar, overseeing approximately 15 million ballots, Kelley said, “I have never seen evidence of any widespread or large-scale fraud. And this is something that we watch on a daily basis. We are always looking for anomalies. It is a constant process.
Kelley said he welcomed a conversation on how to continue to make the voting process more secure and transparent. But he said he hopes Californians will go through established channels to observe post-election processes and approach the legislature to requested changes rather than trying to change the outcome of an election in court.
Rick Hasen, a professor at UC Irvine specializing in electoral law, said he looked at the case a few weeks ago and found it “weak both factually and legally, so I am not surprised that it did not end up anywhere “.
But Republicans apparently used the case to grab the attention of election candidates in 2022.
The Orange County Republican Party, for example, promoted an event in May in which Raths vowed to provide an update on the trial. Raths is running for the supervisory board next year. He did not respond to a request to speak for this story.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs and several other congressional candidates who filed the lawsuit also did not respond to requests to discuss the judge’s decision.