In today’s news conference, Common Sense Party Chair Tom Campbell, and co-founder Hon. Quentin Kopp, called on California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Governor Gavin Newsom to respond to the effect COVID-19 has had on the efforts of the Common Sense Party to become an officially recognized California party. LISTEN TO PRESS CONFERENCE
The Common Sense Party had been gathering registrations through in-person contacts in the way familiar to most Californians: outside of grocery stores and shopping centers. When the virus hit, the Common Sense Party voluntarily shut down its in-person registration efforts out of concern for the health of the circulators and the public. That was March 8, at which time about 20,000 voters had registered in the Common Sense Party. The Common Sense Party has not gone back to in-person solicitation because the virus has continued. On July 3, the deadline for submitting 68,000 registrations came.
In many other states, courts, governors, or legislatures have realized the need to accommodate registration and initiative signature requirements to the realities of the virus. See the chart below, accurate as of the June 19, 2020 filing the Common Sense Party made in court, which displays other states’ actions granting accommodations from registration requirements because of COVID-19. Based on these actions, especially that of the federal court in Chicago, which lowered the registration requirement of the Illinois Libertarian Party by 90%, the Common Sense Party filed federal and state lawsuits to lower the registration requirements for a new party in California. Secretary of State Padilla and Attorney General Becerra opposed our requests.
Remarkably, the lawyers for Secretary of State Padilla and Attorney General Becerra argued in court that the Common Sense Party could have continued to gather in-person registrations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic! They claimed signature gatherers were “electoral personnel,” and hence exempt from the prohibitions on gatherings. The Common Sense Party noted this flies in the face of Governor Newsom’s order to avoid unnecessary in-person contacts. The lawyers for Padilla and Becerra responded that “registration gatherers could have worn masks and spoken with voters distanced six feet apart with clean single-use pens and registration cards placed on a nearby table.”
At today’s news conference, Campbell and Kopp stated their disbelief that Alex Padilla and Xavier Becerra actually believe this. Instead, Campbell and Kopp suggested that the lawyers for the Secretary of State and Attorney General were taking a legalistic position, which belied the reality of public safety. Campbell noted that when the sponsors of two initiatives (for sports-betting at casinos, and for restrictions on single-use plastic containers) asked for relief from the deadlines imposed for their initiatives to gather signatures because of COVID-19, the Secretary of State and Attorney General agreed that the pandemic warranted the accommodations sought in their court cases. Kopp suggested that the difference in treatment might be political: that the Common Sense Party was not welcomed by the state’s Democratic Party, of which Secretary of State Padilla and Attorney General Becerra were both prominent leaders. Kopp renewed the statement of his long-held belief that the office of Secretary of State should be nonpartisan.
Campbell and Kopp called on Secretary of State Padilla and Attorney General Becerra to make clear whether they personally agree with their lawyers that the Common Sense Party should have continued to gather in-person registrations throughout the pandemic in California. If not, they should so instruct their lawyers, because the state and federal lower courts ruled against the Common Sense Party, embracing those arguments. Both cases are now on appeal.
Campbell and Kopp also called on Governor Gavin Newsom to exercise his executive order authority to lower the registration requirements to a reasonable number, reflecting what the Common Sense Party had obtained as of March 8, when in-person solicitation ceased. Campbell noted that the Governor has issued a large number of such accommodations, eliminating in-person interview requirements, for instance, for marriage licenses, determinations of the eligibility of foster care and Medicare, and certain drivers’ license renewals. See, e.g., https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/06/15/governor-newsom-signs-executive-order-on-actions-in-response-to-covid-19-6-15-20/.
Campbell noted that Governor Cuomo had lowered registration requirements by 70% in New York, and Governor Pritzker had agreed in court to lower Illinois’ registration requirements by 90%. As a national leader in the COVID-19 response, Governor Newsom should do the same for California. Campbell noted he had made a formal request of Governor Newsom. That letter appears below. No answer has been received as of today from Governor Newsom’s office.
Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
VIA FED EX
Phone: (916) 445-2841