May 25 (UPI) -- Several Republican groups have filed a lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order to allow Californians to vote by mail in the November presidential election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit filed Sunday by the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the California Republican Party is seeking to have Newsom's executive order to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters unlawful.
Early this month, Newsom, a Democrat, issued the executive order, stating "no Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote."
However, the Republican Party argues the Democrats are attempting to use the coronavirus pandemic to orchestrate "a power grab."
"Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Gov. Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. "Newsom's illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote."
In the 27-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the Republicans argue Newsom's executive order will violate citizens' right to vote by mailing ballots to inactive voters, stating it will invite fraud, coercion, theft and illegitimate voting.
The Republicans also described the executive order as a "usurpation" of the California legislature's authority to determine how the state chooses electors for the presidency.
In the court document, the Republicans point out that since the executive order was issued the state has moved to the second phase of Newsom's four-phase reopening plan from lockdown measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The plan, the Republicans said, is for the state to have exited a state of emergency by the vote in November.
"The order is less about protecting the health of Californians and more about protecting the electoral prospects of the governor's political party," the court document reads.
Alex Padilla, the secretary of state for California who has been pushing for mail voting since the pandemic began, rejected the accusation late Sunday that expanding vote-by-mail was a partisan issue, describing the move as "a moral imperative to protect voting rights and public safety."
Padilla said the lawsuit is "just another part of Trump's political smear campaign" against voting by mail.
"We will not let this virus be exploited for voter suppression," Padilla said.
The lawsuit was filed days after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Newsom's restrictions on churches to open amid the pandemic.