Voters in California city back rightward turn of city council

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Voters in California’s Huntington Beach have approved two conservative ballot measures including one allowing the city to require voter identification for elections passed by an 8-point margin and another that effectively bans flying the LGBTQ pride flag at City Hall.

The measures were proposed by four conservatives who took over the City Council in the November 2022 elections and have pursued an agenda aligned with the Republican Party politics of former President Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again movement.

The voter identification measure was approved by 8 points even though California’s Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta has warned Huntington Beach that requiring voter ID violates state law and could provoke a lawsuit.

The second measure on the LGBTQ pride flags passed by 16 points. It was proposed after the council voted to take down the pride flag and bans all but official government flags and those of the armed forces, prisoners of war, and the Olympic Games unless over-ruled by a unanimous council vote.

Though the results are still unofficial as more mail-in ballots from Tuesday’s election have yet to be counted, the opposition to the ballot measures, a group called Protect Huntington Beach, conceded defeat with the latest batch of results that were posted Wednesday evening.

A third measure that the four council members had backed governing the appointment of City Council vacancies and the budget process was defeated by 5 points.

Since the four conservatives took control, Huntington Beach has become a microcosm of the polarized America in the Trump era, with the council majority promoting culture war issues traditionally unseen in municipal politics. Last month it endorsed the border security policy of the state of Texas.

“I believe the votes validated that we are headed in the right direction,” said Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark, who swept into office along with fellow conservatives Pat Burns, Casey McKeon and Rod Strickland.

The council majority has removed books deemed as having sexual content from the teen section of the library, restricted who can give the opening prayer before city council meetings, and stripped the council’s three liberals of assignments on boards and commissions.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Donna Bryson and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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