On Tuesday, a bill that would authorize sending a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in California passed the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee by a vote of 4 to 1.
One step forward for a second statewide ballot law
Assembly Bill 860, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), would also extend the deadline of votes being received by county elections officials to 20 days after election day. For the 2020 general election, this means that all votes must be in by November 23rd. In-person voting on election day would not be interrupted under the bill, but social distancing and other public health and safety measures may be in place depending on if the coronavirus is still widespread in the fall.
AB 860 would work in conjunction with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order allowing for mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters in the state this fall.
Assemblyman Berman wrote AB 860 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure safe voting measures are in place 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 press release on Tuesday. “There is a very real concern that we could see a surge in coronavirus cases in the fall. Mailing every California voter a ballot, and providing them with the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home, is essential to ensuring that we can conduct an open, accessible, and safe election this November.”
While being praised as a safe “from home” alternative and a secure way to vote with other primarily by-mail voting states noting only around a dozen cases of fraud out of 100 million ballots, significant opposition has come against both AB 860 and Governor Newsom’s ballot Executive Order.
GOP concerns, 2018 ballot harvest charges renewed
The RNC has sued to block Governor Newsom’s Executive Order over ballot harvesting claims, with Judicial Watch and former Congressman Darrell Issa also suing the state over the Order ‘superseding’ current California election law.
AB 860, while acting as a sort of backup in case the Executive Order is struck down or expires when the State of Emergency is over, is also facing similar charges of ballot harvesting, the charge of mail-in votes being collectively and strategically submitted for counting, and discouraging voters from voting in-person.
“Democrats foresaw this happening,” noted Max Reyes, a Los Angeles lawyer who has helped on voting lawsuits before. “That’s why they’re also passing SB 423 right now, which would guarantee a minimum of in-person voting locations on election day. But this hasn’t appeased many.”
“The GOP doesn’t want to get bombarded again, especially since they are currently on track for big wins in Orange County and other parts of California where they had lost to Democrats in the past. And Democrats and Republicans both sincerely want to have a safe election. Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele had a pretty good compromise solution in an editorial not too long ago, and I think that’s what California should aim for. Vote from home if you can, allow in-person voting, make sure there isn’t any harvesting going on like in 2018. We need as straight forward as an election as possible.”
“AB 860 and SB 423 would need some amendments to make sure it meets those requirements, but we shouldn’t discount them out of hand either.”
AB 860 will be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks. If passed, California would join Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington in having guaranteed mail-in ballots for all voters in November.