Marc Elias of Perkins Coie LLP is considered the Democrats’ top election lawyer, involved in may states’ cases. Image via perkinscoie.com

Congress candidate Darrell Issa and Judicial Watch have new opposition in their effort to undo Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to send all state registered voters an absentee ballot for the November presidential election.

Federal Judge Morrison England Jr. on Wednesday gave permission to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the California Democratic Party to be intervenors in the suit targeting Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Judge Morrison England’s order letting DCCC and California Democratic Party become co-defendants in Issa suit. (PDF)

In other words, the DCCC and CalDems are new defendants in the case — a relative rarity. (Most intervenors join the plaintiffs’ side.)

And who will help the Democrats argue the case in Sacramento federal court?

The judge gave Marc E. Elias of Washington, D.C., the OK to join the fray.

In a recent Bloomberg article, Elias is described as the man President Trump calls the Democrats’ “best election stealing lawyer.”

Elias, the article says, is spearheading lawsuits in 13 states “seeking to overturn constraints on voting by mail, with early signs of success. Democrats argue the effort is critical to safety and fairness during the pandemic. Republicans warn of voter fraud, which experts say has been rare.”

Elias will lead a team that also includes fellow Perkins Coie attorneys Abha Khanna and Jonathan P. Hawley of Seattle, and Henry James Brewster and Courtney A. Elgart of Washington, D.C.

In November 2018, Trump tweeted: “As soon as Democrats sent their best Election stealing lawyer, Marc Elias, to Broward County they miraculously started finding Democrat votes. Don’t worry, Florida – I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!”

Newsweek noted that Elias is a partner at Perkins Coie, which represented Hillary Clinton and hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump in 2016.

“Fusion’s work eventually led to the creation of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier,” Newsweek said. “The collection of reports by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele alleged Russia and Trump colluded to win the White House in 2016, and that Russia had potentially damning information on the president.”

Judge England paid that no heed, however.

He said the proposed intervenors cite three “protectable interests” as the basis for their intervention: asserting the rights of their members to vote safely without risking their health; advancing their overall electoral prospects; and diverting their limited resources to educate their members on election procedures.

“Contrary to the arguments of the Issa Plaintiffs, such interests are routinely found to constitute significant protectable interests,” England wrote.

Furthermore, he said, if both the GOP’s Issa and co-plaintiff Republican National Committee were to succeed — by blocking the mandatory statewide mail vote — the DCCC and CalDems would have to devote their limited resources to educating members on California’s current voting-by-mail system and assist those members with preparation of applications to vote by mail.

“The Court thus finds that absent intervention, the interests of the Proposed Intervenors may not be adequately represented,” he said. “In sum, because all of the factors have been met, the Court finds the Proposed Intervenors are entitled to intervene as a matter of right.”

Issa has stressed that he strongly supports the right of Californians to vote by mail and urged election officials to mail every non-permanent absentee voter an application for a mail ballot for the November 2020 election.

But Issa’s press secretary recently told Times of San Diego: “Millions of voters will receive ballots, with no verification as to whether they are active voters, reside at the address where they’ve received their ballot, or if they’re even still alive.”

Republican Issa, the longtime 49th District member of the House, is running to replace resigned Rep. Duncan D. Hunter in the East and North County 50th District.

But Issa’s voting history, a public record, shows that as a member of Congress between 2001 and 2019, he voted in 24 of 26 elections — 16 by absentee.

Carl Luna, the veteran local political observer from San Diego Mesa College, says he thinks the DCCC joining the defense means Democrats are elevating the Issa complaint to a national test case.

Their hope, in victory, is setting a precedent to rebuff Republican attempts nationwide to limit the use of mail-in ballots in the fall, he said via email.

“Republicans like Issa are backing challenges to mail-in ballots for two reasons — neither of which is to prevent voter fraud because no evidence of significant voter fraud in mail in ballots has ever been found in any academic or governmental study,” Luna said.

The political science professor said that even though President Trump believes such fraud exists, “people like Issa are smart enough to understand the charge is baseless.”

Then Luna let loose:

“Issa and fellow Republicans embrace challenging mail-in ballots because a) Trump does and in the current Republican party there can be absolutely no deviation from the Trumpian line (witness the recent storm of ad hominem attacks on the retired generals like Mattis); and b) Facing a growing possibility of losing the presidency and maybe the Senate (as well as numerous down-ballot races) perpetuating the falsehood of mail-in ballot fraud now will become a basis of the GOP challenging the legitimacy of the election in November.”

Such a challenge wouldn’t be able to reverse the outcome of a Joe Biden victory, he said, but could create an environment in which Democrats would be less able to move forward with their progressive agenda.

“If you know you won’t win the election, at least make it hard for the other side to get anything done when they win,” Luna said. “Now THAT is Machiavellian.”

Curiously, the Republican National Committee didn’t object to the DCCC and CalDems becoming intervenors. But Issa did.

“The RNC Plaintiffs do not oppose the Proposed Intervenors’ request, but the Issa Plaintiffs have filed an opposition,” Judge England said in his order. “Defendants have not responded, and the Proposed Intervenors have filed Reply briefs. For the reasons set forth below, the Proposed Intervenors’ Motions to Intervene are GRANTED.”

Representatives of Issa, the DCCC, the California Democratic Party and Judicial Watch didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Updated at 9:40 p.m. June 10, 2020

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