Huntington Beach to put three charter amendment measures, including voter ID, on March ballot

The city of Huntington Beach raised the LGBTQ Pride flag at City Hall in 2021.
The city of Huntington Beach raised the LGBTQ Pride flag at City Hall in 2021, but it is no longer allowed there per an ordinance passed earlier this year.
(File Photo )

The Huntington Beach City Council voted Thursday night to move ahead with putting three city charter amendment measures on the March 2024 primary ballot.

Surf City voters will be asked to decide if they want changes to local municipal elections, including voter identification requirements, starting in 2026. A charter amendment to only fly government, military, the POW/MIA and possibly the Olympic flag is another measure that was moved forward Thursday.

The third measure deals partially with administrative changes and changing how the City Council fills vacancies, as well as making city budgets biennial instead of annual.


The panel voted a familiar way, 4-3, to move the election and flag charter amendments forward. The four conservatives, Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark and Councilmen Casey McKeon and Pat Burns voted in favor, while Councilman Dan Kalmick and Councilwomen Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton voted against.

Despite considerable public disapproval, with the majority of residents at each of the four charter amendment meetings not supporting the amendments, the council’s majority pushed forward. Several audience members held signs reading “Vote No! Stop the Power Grab!”

Requiring voter ID was the biggest concern. State Sen. Dave Min, whose District 37 includes about half of Huntington Beach, spoke at Thursday’s meeting and called the proposed election changes unnecessary and likely illegal.

“I have not seen any proof presented that there’s a need for this, that there’s any voter fraud in any election in Orange County or Huntington Beach in any recent cycle,” Min said. “This will cost taxpayers a lot of money, and I am concerned. I normally believe in local control — I don’t come down here and grandstand — but I have concerns about this.”

If the Orange County Registrar of Voters does not accept Huntington Beach’s proposal and consolidate elections, city staff estimates the total cost of a 2026 standalone local election would be $1.35 to $1.69 million. However, the revised amendment says the city “may” institute these changes, rather than it “shall” institute them.

The Southern California chapter of the ACLU and Disability Rights California sent a joint letter to the City Council expressing concerns that the voter ID provision violates state law and would result in voter suppression.

“We still don’t know how much this is going to cost, we still don’t know how we’re going to do it, so I don’t know why we’re still talking about it,” Bolton said.

McKeon said the elections changes had nothing to do with voter fraud but instead were about increasing faith in elections and voter turnout. But Moser countered that they would do the opposite and disenfranchise residents, while sowing chaos.

“I trust the elections right now,” she said. “I will not trust them under these circumstances.”

Van Der Mark drew on her own low-income background.

“As a teenager, we were poor, [but] we were not ignorant,” she said. “We were not incapable of getting an ID. I don’t know if you guys realize how racist it even sounds for you guys to say that people of color are incapable of getting an ID. That’s offensive. I do not like identity politics, but I will point this out. Every single person who said people of color could not get IDs was not a person of color, but yet they’re speaking for me. I can speak for myself.”

Van Der Mark then showed a video by conservative filmmaker and satirist Ami Horowitz. In the video, he asks white college students about voter ID laws, with many saying they were racist. Then he went to Harlem to talk to Black people, with those in the documentary saying they had no problem with having IDs.

After the video played, Kalmick said the issue was low-income people not having access to voter IDs, not people of color per se.

“That’s the fallacy of anecdotes right there,” he said, referencing the video. “I don’t know if there’s edited video of the people that didn’t meet the narrative that he was trying to get there. The Brennan Center, the ACLU, people have done what’s not called anecdotal research but is actually research. They found census data and said, ‘We looked and said it is harder for low-income people to get IDs.’”

Maureen and Tim Sullivan fill out their ballots at Huntington Beach City Hall in 2022.
(File Photo)

Kalmick added that the issue was the proposed measure creates barriers for people to vote.

“In one of the earlier meetings, you said, ‘Anybody can get a passport, it’s $100,’” Kalmick said. “That’s $100. To someone making $28,000 a year, that’s a non-trivial amount of money. That’s a day’s work to get a passport. What I believe this country is based on is to try to get as many people as we possibly can to vote because the enfranchisement of people is the most important thing to make this democracy work.”

When it came to voting for the measures to be given to the city attorney’s office, to come back for the Oct. 17 meeting, it was again a 4-3 vote.

After all of the voting, many residents had another 90 seconds in which to voice their disapproval. Former Huntington Beach Mayor Shirley Dettloff said the outcome made her sad.

“I was a Democrat serving with all Republicans, but every one of us knew that we were a nonpartisan group,” she said. “It never was shown that any of us took our political beliefs in making this city a better place. You know that you should have started off with a citizen’s committee, and we would have not reached this point of divisiveness in this community that you have produced.”