During state senate hearings on April 12th, State Senator Josh Newman approached Orrin Heatlie, lead proponent of the Gavin Newsom recall campaign. Heatlie was in attendance to testify against SB 663, sponsored by Senator Newman.
SB 663 will “provide a mechanism for the target of a recall petition to communicate with constituents who may have signed that petition,” and “provide a meaningful opportunity for voters who may have signed a recall petition to withdraw their signatures.”
According to Heatlie, Newman came into the gallery to shake Heatlie’s hand and assure him that because there wasn’t an urgency attached to SB 663, it would not affect the signatures that Heatlie and allied committees have recently submitted to recall the governor.
Newman, having inexplicably clawed his way back into office after being himself recalled by voters in 2018, wants to make sure nobody else has to suffer such indignities. Heatlie, whose principled and steadfast leadership has given birth to a grassroots movement of extraordinary power and potential, was not impressed by Newman’s gesture.
Reached for comment earlier this week, Heatlie acknowledged that the primary threat of SB 663 is to future recall attempts, where, to express its primary provisions in plain English, anyone who signs a recall petition will have their name and address publicly accessible, and will be subject to a “meaningful opportunity” to think better of their decision and withdraw their signature.
And you thought voter harvesting could constitute opportunities for intimidation and fraud. Imagine door to door harvesting operations designed to convince voters to withdraw their signatures on a recall petition.
There’s so much wrong and hypocritical about SB 663 it’s hard to know where to begin. The timing, as Heatlie went on to explain, is not by accident. Even though SB 663, if passed, will not formally take effect in time to dox the more than 2.1 million people who signed the Newsom recall petition, that fact will not be generally known. As a consequence, many of the individuals and small business owners who supported the signature gathering campaign will be thinking twice before they support the recall campaign itself later this year.
People supporting the recall already have to contend with a nonstop avalanche of slime coming from nearly every major newspaper in California. Exhibit A for this campaign of group character assassination would be the “investigation” conducted in February 2021 by the Los Angeles Times. Entitled “Far-right movements including QAnon, virus skeptics linked to Newsom recall,” this is propaganda masquerading as investigative journalism. Using precisely the same logic as the Los Angeles Times, one might suggest that anyone opposing the Newsom recall has “ties” to looters, arsonists and eco-terrorists.
Even without the help of SB 663, in any case, Newsom’s minions are trying to dox the individuals and businesses supporting the recall. Former State Senator Don Perata, whose embarrassing Ballotpedia biography discloses, among other things, allegations of using “campaign donations to support an indulgent lifestyle,” was termed out of office way back in 2008, but he’s back.
Today, Perata is chair of “Stop the Steal California,” “a citizen-led effort, independent from political party politics.” On April 12, on behalf of his organization, Perata sent a letter to Orrin Heatlie, attempting to compel him to release copies of “all the recall petitions you have submitted to the County Registrars and Secretary of State.”
In his letter, Perata claims that “a recall election is expensive and unnecessary,” and that “California government only works when there is full transparency in accordance with our Constitution.” In this letter, however, much is left unclear.
For example, if Perata thinks a recall election is expensive and unnecessary, does that mean his committee is trying to prevent the recall election from occurring? And if so, how does “transparency,” i.e., doxing every person who signed a recall petition, further that objective? Can Perata’s organization have anything in mind apart from having operatives show up at the door of every voter that signed a petition, in order to offer every one of them a “meaningful opportunity” to withdraw their signature?
Perata concludes his letter with the following warning: “Should you fail to act, we will proceed with further legal remedies. We are willing to discuss this matter but please understand that we will settle for nothing short of immediate release of all the petitions.”
Good luck with that. The California Constitution, in Article 2, Section 7, entitled “Voting, Initiative and Referendum, and Recall,” (italics added) offers up four words that leave little to interpretation: “Voting shall be secret.” Perata will have to make the rather strained argument that signing a recall petition – which can only be done by a registered voter – is so fundamentally different from voting that it is not secret at all, but entirely public. Really? Wouldn’t signing a recall for a corrupt, potentially dangerous public official be exactly when you would most need to protect voters from being identified publicly?
Even if some judge manages to buy this argument, Perata would still have to contend with California’s Government Code governing the recall process, where Code 6253.5 states that “all memoranda prepared by the county elections officials in the examination of the petitions indicating which registered voters have signed particular petitions shall not be deemed to be public records and shall not be open to inspection except by the public officer or public employees who have the duty of receiving, examining or preserving the petitions…” It goes on for a bit. But there’s nothing there to empower political activists, working on behalf of Governor Newsom, to show up at the doors of every person who signed a recall petition. And as for SB 663, should it pass, it will die in court.
But what are they thinking, anyway? How do Newsom and the party he represents justify putting every person who signs a recall petition under a microscope, when they won’t even clean up the voter rolls, or require voter ID?
The stench of hypocrisy hangs over the state, as thick as the smoke from last year’s superfires.
This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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