Darrell Issa, shown at a February debate, dropped his lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla seven weeks after it was filed. Photo by Chris Stone

Three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a November 2020 vote-by-mail election, former U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa and Republican co-plaintiffs dropped their lawsuit over the issue.

On Thursday, Issa’s legal team wrote federal Judge Morrison C. England Jr. in Sacramento that “as a result of the enactment of AB 860, Defendants will not rely upon Executive Order N-64-20 in connection with the November 2020 election.”

It was Newsom’s order of May 8 that sparked the suit backed by the right-leaning Judicial Watch. It contended the governor couldn’t legally order all counties to send every registered voter an absentee ballot.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England signed order dismissing Darrell Issa lawsuit. (PDF)

But AB 860 meant the suit was moot — since Issa’s team agreed that the Legislature itself could pass a mail-ballot mandate. Intervenors including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the California Democratic Party also noted the mootness.

Later Thursday, Judge England signed the dismissal order.

“Plaintiffs Darrell Issa, Jerry Griffin, Michelle Bolotin, Michael Sienkiewicz and James B. Oerding’s complaint is dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A),” he wrote. “The parties shall bear their own attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs.”

In a statement Friday, Issa told Times of San Diego: “It was Newsom who quietly dropped his attempt to subvert the Constitution because of our suit. We sued to enforce the rule of law, and the rule of law prevailed.”

He repeated arguments from the suit that Newsom lacked constitutional authority to issue his executive order and “new laws are not made on the caprices of governors.”

“Our lawsuit brought important public attention to the flaws in Newsom’s order, some of which were addressed,” Issa said. “AB 860 for instance did not require inactive voters to receive an unsolicited mail ballot, which Newsom’s order seemingly would have.”

He concluded: “The fact remains that millions of dead, inactive and moved out of state voters are still on California’s voter rolls. That fact has been proven in court (Judicial Watch v Logan). All active, eligible California voters should demand clean voter rolls to ensure the integrity of our elections.”

Issa, who didn’t respond to a query on why the dismissal took three weeks, also sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla at the same time.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, also hailed the development, saying in a series of tweets: “California Democrats effectively admitted the governor had overstepped his legal authority because they had to step in to bail him out. … We are continuing to fight Democrats’ reckless attacks on the integrity of our elections.”

But she was challenged on some issues.

The Republican candidate for Duncan Hunter’s vacated 50th Congressional District seat made no mention of the dismissal Thursday on his Twitter feed, instead highlighting a visit to a Santee water treatment plant.

Gov. Newsom didn’t note the dismissal either, instead tweeting about Bill Nye urging face masks and his office noting a visit to McClellan Air Force Base to “highlight the state’s wildfire mitigation capabilities.”

The California fight over a mail-in election is over, but it rages nationally.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported how Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles was tracking nearly 130 pandemic-related election lawsuits.

“The firm of Marc Elias, a lawyer who frequently represents the Democratic Party, is pursuing more than 35 voting rights cases, a number he calls an order of magnitude greater than in the past,” the paper said. “The Republican National Committee, which pledged this spring to spend at least $20 million fighting attempts to loosen voting rules, boasts of filing or intervening in 19 suits to date.”

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

On Twitter, Elias crowed: “Victory is sweet!!”

Issa’s press secretary last month 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.”

Issa backs absentee balloting as an option, and he availed himself of it as a member of Congress. Between 2001 and 2019, he voted by mail 16 times.

Updated at 4:44 p.m. July 10, 2020

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