Voters in Huntington Beach, California, will decide on three charter amendments on March 5, 2024, which the Huntington Beach City Council referred to the ballot on Oct. 5, 2023.
Measure 1 would make various changes to the election procedures of Huntington Beach, including requiring voter identification for elections and requiring ballot drop boxes to be monitored. The vote was 4-3 on the council.
Huntington Beach Mayor Tony Strickland (R), who supports Measure 1, said, “Our democracy does not work if people do not have faith in the election results. Anytime you can put safeguards in I think it’s important to do so people have faith in our election outcomes.”
Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) sent a letter to the City of Huntington Beach, which said that Measure 1 would conflict with state law and suppress voter participation without a discernible local benefit. Attorney General Bonta stated, “Huntington Beach’s proposed amendment violates state law and would impose additional barriers to voting. If the city moves forward and places it on the ballot, we stand ready to take appropriate action to ensure that voters’ rights are protected.” Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates responded to the letter, saying, “The letter reads largely as a policy concern and it does keep talking about how these issues are a matter of statewide concern for the state. I think it’s a stretch to say that voter ID in Huntington Beach and monitoring of ballot boxes is a statewide concern.”
Measure 2 would prohibit the City of Huntington Beach from displaying flags on city property unless there is a unanimous vote of the city council or an exemption. Under Measure 2, the following flags would be exempt from the ban: the flags of the U.S., California, Orange County, and Huntington Beach, as well as the POW-MIA flag, Armed Forces flags, and the Olympic flag during the Summer Olympic Games. The vote was 4-3 on the council.
Former Mayor Connie Boardman (D), who opposes the charter amendment, said the proposal is related to the city’s previous decision to fly an LGBTQ pride flag. Boardman said, “This is about flying the Pride Flag at City Hall in June and making it as hard as possible for any future council to do that.”
Councilmember Pat Burns, who proposed Measure 2, said, “The flags that we have that represent our governments is what is important to unify us. It has nothing to do with segregating. It’s recognizing that we are one.”
Measure 3 would make other changes to the charter, including requiring a two-year budget, rather than a one-year budget; allowing the mayor or city council to cancel meetings; and requiring a member of a city council who was appointed to fill a vacancy to be up for election at the next general election, rather than the end of the term. It would also change some phrases, dates, titles, and pronouns in the charter, such as changing ‘he’ to ‘person.’ Six members of the city council voted to place the amendment on the ballot, with one member abstaining.