Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 207 into law on Friday, allowing all registered voters to change their party preference or address up to two weeks before an election.
Authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), SB 207 changes the former law of accepting voters registrations 15 days or more before an election, and giving any voter whose registration was received afterwards a ‘conditional’ ballot. It also replaces the old system of needing to re-register every time a voter changed their address or party.
The bill was largely introduced and passed to increase voter turnout and to respond to the growing number of independent and no party preference voters. SB 207 became one of the first bills signed into law this year following over a year of being shuffled between different committees, the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor’s desk.
Bill supporters celebrated on Friday, and are now expecting more voters to vote in the California primaries next month.
“[Governor Newsom] signed my legislation, SB 207,” Tweeted Senator Hurtado. “The bill, coauthored by [Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego)] will simplify the process for voters updating specified personal information or party preference in the two weeks prior to and including Election Day.”
In a later statement, Senator Hurtado added to her initial reaction, saying, “In 2018, California piloted conditional voter registration and some polling places reported lines over five hours long as a result of the additional voters. Therefore, it is urgent to put a procedure in place to efficiently provide voters assistance this upcoming presidential primary.”
Despite many other prominent lawmakers giving messages of support, the bill has faced some opposition, as also reported by California Globe. It only passed 28-9 in the Senate, with many Republicans have expressed concerns on the bill not doing enough to address issues such as voters accidentally voting in the wrong district or longer voting lines.
“The recent stories surrounding the flawed Motor Voter law have already decreased voter confidence in correct party affiliation,” said Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) in a statement shortly after the signing. “Although SB 207 provides some clarity to voters as to how they can change their address or party affiliation, it does not provide the necessary safeguards to ensure residents are voting in their correct districts. Safeguards like residency verification must first be in place before a bill like SB 207 is enacted.”
Despite concerns from lawmakers, the law is now active in California. Voters can change their party or address until February 18th for California’s Super Tuesday March 3rd Primary. As the 2020 presidential primaries have an open Democratic candidate and the Republicans have a presumptive candidate in Donald Trump, it’s widely expected that many voters with no party affiliation will change to the Democratic ballot before the election.
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