HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- One of three measures up for vote this March looking to change the city charter in Huntington Beach may require voters to use identification at the polls.
If approved, Measure A would allow the city to require voters to use identification for city elections starting in 2026. The measure would also provide more in-person voting options, including at least 20 Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA-compliant locations, and monitor ballot drop boxes in the city.
Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark was among the conservative majority supporting a 'Yes' vote on Measure A.
"Many of our residents here do question the integrity of our elections, and they've asked for this for a very long time," Van Der Mark said, adding, "If the community wants this, and this going to help them have more faith in our elections system, why not?"
California's Attorney General Rob Bonta and Secretary of State Shirley Weber addressed several issues in a four-page letter, dated September 28, 2023, urging the council to not place Measure A on the ballot.
The State leaders wrote in part, "... the City's proposal to require voter identification at the polls in municipal elections conflicts with state law and would only serve to suppress voter participation without providing any discernible local benefit ..."
Measure A does not line out how city officials would monitor ballot drop boxes.
On that topic, Bonta and Weber wrote, "and thus it is unclear whether or how the proposal might conflict with state law," adding, "... our offices stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that state law is upheld and voters' rights are protected."
Among the councilmembers against the measure was Natalie Moser, who said Huntington Beach is not prepared to manage its elections. She said it should be left to the county.
"We have our incredible Registrar of Voters, who is one of the most respected in the entire country, who has specialized equipment to process voter registration, authenticate signatures, and certify elections, none of which we have the capacity, the infrastructure, or the expertise or money to be able to do," Moser said.
On the ballot, the city attorney stated the adoption of Measure A, "may result in additional, currently undetermined costs."
That was something members of Protect HB, like Andrew Einhorn, took issue with.
The grassroots group describes itself on its website as "HB citizens working to protect the welcoming culture and sound financial future of their city."
They worry about the notice from the state.
"If this passes, they're going to sue us, and the fines could be significant and, you know, city councils really need to spend time working on our streets, our sewers, our police and the basic structure of the city," Einhorn said. "We don't need to be working on all of these other issues."
Huntington Beach's mayor said the city was prepared to take on this battle in court, if necessary.
"We have a city attorney right now. He's in-house, so we don't pay him anything extra to go out and fight for us, but if we're going to be sued because we're asking for our elections to be secure, then that's just what's going to happen. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that our elections are secure, and that is our responsibility as citizens," Van Der Mark said.
Election Day is March 5. Voters have until then to cast their ballots.