On Thursday, the Assembly approved a bill that would authorize sending a mail-in ballot to every active registered voter in California.
AB 860 a Governor’s signature away from becoming law
Assembly Bill 860, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), managed to draw more of a bipartisan support compared to earlier versions of the bill by adding an amendment that specifically stops inactive voters from receiving a ballot. Previous bill changes, such as extending the vote received deadline for county officials by 20 days after an election day, also won over many with concerns about votes by mail arriving on time.
Assemblyman Berman wrote AB 860 as a direct response to the coronavirus epidemic, with the bill a way for voters to safely social distance while voting and to give those who usually voted in-person who had not asked for an absentee ballot an option in November.
“No one should have to risk their health – and possibly their life – to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Assemblyman Berman in a statement on Thursday. “In the midst of a deadly health pandemic, giving all California voters the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home is the responsible thing to do. I am grateful that so many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle agree, and I look forward to Governor Newsom signing AB 860. This bill gives voters the peace of mind to know that they can safely participate in their democracy, and allows our elections officials to continue making the necessary arrangements for the general election.”
AB 860 and SB 423 amended several times to meet GOP concerns
In addition to previous concerns over inactive voters receiving ballots, a sister Senate bill has been moving up alongside AB 860 to address concerns about being able to vote in-person. Senate Bill 423, authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) would require a minimum number of in-person polling places to set up on election day, ensuring a choice for voters.
“Both Berman and Umberg have been meeting every concern that pops up,” explained Max Reyes, a Los Angeles lawyer who has helped on election lawsuits. “Many have been questioning whether AB 860 could change voting totals by having others vote in place of others in those inactive ballots, but the recent amendment put aside enough fears for many GOP lawmakers to finally side with the law. Adding 20 days at the end for ballot counting also helped ease many fears about ballot counting. SB 423 removes any doubts people have about being forced to vote-by-mail. And California has also been strict on voter fraud cases.
AB 860 wasn’t passed because of it being a way for people to safely vote. Not entirely. It was passed because it kept needing to be changed to counter big points being raised against it. Remember, some Democrats were concerned about the bill in it’s early days too. AB 860 largely became a compromise bill at the end by giving people assurances and set in stone amendments.”
A Sutter County Superior Court restraining order against Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order on mandatory mailed ballots and a minimum number of voting booths was knocked down an appeals court stay. With the Appellate ruling and Governor Newsom’s impending signature, vote-by-mail ballots going out to all voters is now essentially a foregone conclusion.
AB 860 has until August 31st to be signed by the Governor, but a signature is expected much sooner to ensure ballots go out in time for the November election.
UPDATE 6:01 pm: Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has signed AB 860 by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) – Elections: vote by mail ballots.