Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a bill that makes permanent voting by mail. Every active registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail for every election.
Advocates hailed the new law Assembly Bill 37 from Menlo Park Assembly member Marc Berman as a way to make it more convenient for people to vote, which could increase participation in elections. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least five other states Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington have conducted elections by mail.
Gov. Newsom signed 10 other voting related bills on Monday, crafting them as part of an effort to expand voting rights and access. Voting rights have become a major political flashpoint nationally. Democrat states are pushing legislation aimed at expanding voting access while many Republican states are trying to tighten it amid baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders.
“Elections and the right to vote are foundational to our democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote. Mail-in ballots aren’t a perfect solution for every person, and I look forward to our public health experts and the Secretary of State’s and the Legislature’s continued partnership to create safer in-person opportunities for Californians who aren’t able to vote by mail.”
The Administration will continue to work with the Legislature and the Secretary of State to determine how requirements for in-person voting opportunities and other details of the November election will be implemented, while preserving public health and giving county elections officials needed flexibility. If by May 30, 2020 counties do not yet have clarity for in-person voting opportunities and other details of the November election, it may be necessary to issue a further executive order addressing these issues.
“California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. I thank Governor Newsom for taking decisive action now, to preserve voting rights and provide sufficient time to properly prepare for the General Election,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Today we become the first state in the nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by mailing every registered voter a ballot. We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure, and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.”