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Vote-By-Mail Procedures To Be Used In Upcoming California Elections

California Gov. Gavin Newson issued an executive order which provides vote-by-mail procedures in upcoming special elections and extends the deadline for ballot counting, tabulation and other tasks related to California’s presidential primary election. These measures were taken as a response to social distancing for COVID-19.

Executive order N-34-20 states that “the generalized use of in-person voting presents risks to public health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and could risk undermining social distancing measures imposed by the State Public Health Officer.”

This order is offering new vote-by-mail procedures to be used in upcoming special elections. Mail-in ballots will be offered to voters during the May 12 elections to fill the vacant 25th Congressional District seat and the 28th State Senate District Office. 

The order also states how in-person voting will be available “in a manner consistent with public health and safety.” Polling stations will take extra precautions to make sure social distancing precautions are followed. 

California, which has considerably advanced its use of in-mail voting over the last few decades, is the forefront of change and could be a model for other states to follow. While less than 20% of the voters in the 1992 general election cast their vote by mail, almost two-thirds have done so in the 2018 election, according to state data

“It turns out that the policies California has put in place to increase access to the ballot also make perfect sense for conducting elections during a health pandemic … We stand ready to assist any other states and share our experience with them on how best to do it,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in an interview with Mercury News.

This coming November, over 20 million registered voters in California may get a ballot in their mailbox. Earlier this past month, Joe Holland, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election officials and top election official of Santa Barbara County, sent Gov. Gavin Newson a letter urging him to make the upcoming November election an “all-mail ballot decision.” 

“The consensus for November 2020 is that California is going to go all vote-by-mail … and we should. We don’t want to have a Wisconsin debacle,” Holland said, referring to the April 7 presidential primary where voters waited up to five hours in line. Roughly 400,000 people in Wisconsin voted in person after Democratic Gov.Tony Evers’ last minute order to postpone in-person voting was overturned. While personal protective equipment and guidance were provided, working the polls and waiting in line to vote still presented a risk. Over thirty voters and poll workers in the Wisconsin voting poll tested positive for COVID-19. 

For those who do not agree with the principles of mail-in voting, state laws are requiring countries to have a certain number of in-person voting polls. Secretary of State Alex Padilla is pushing to send every voter a ballot in the mall in fall. 

Padilla’s office has launched the new “Where’s My Ballot?” tool to help voters track the status of their vote-by-mail ballots. Voters can sign up at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to receive notifications about their vote-by-mail ballots by email, text (SMS) or voice call.

In California, voting by mail has become increasingly more popular. It has become the first state in the nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by mailing every registered voter a ballot. Public health concerns have fueled a push for more mail-in balloting in November. If by May 30, 2020, countries do not yet clarify their in-person voting opportunities for the November election, it may be necessary to issue another executive order addressing these issues.

“In California’s presidential primary earlier this month, about 75% of voters received a mail-in ballot,” Padilla said in a press release. 

Padilla has already encouraged the county to send every voter a ballot after it faced long lines and disorder at some voting centers during the primary.

Concerns about the safety of mail voting have arisen in a few voters. Mail voting has been linked with higher rates of unaccounted numbers than voting in person. Federal agents in St. Louis, Mo. are still unable to decipher the suspected fraud relating to the Democratic Primary for the District 78 seat in the state’s General Assembly. 

The contest between politician Penny Hubbard and Bruce Franks Jr. revealed possible gaps of voting by mail in Missouri. Hubbard won 78 percent of absentee votes while only winning 47 percent of votes at in-person voting locations. It was believed that of the votes in support of Hubbard, a majority of them had not been submitted in sealed envelopes. When the court ruled a new election to take place, mindful of past circumstances, Franks won in a landslide, with a 1,500 vote margin.

“It is just creating huge holes in the system everywhere,” Gentry Lange, a Seattle real estate broker and director of the No Vote By Mail Project, said.

President Trump’s reelection campaign has opposed changes in the voting process, particularly the vote by mail proposal in the upcoming November election. The campaign states that voting by mail decreases election integrity and allows for illegal voting. Despite the President’s stance, state party leaders across the country insistently urged their voters to cast their ballot by mail, confirmed by GOP officials. 

On May 8, Gov. Newsom issued Executive Order N-64-20 allowing all California voters to vote by mail for the November election. 

Sarah Kim is a City News Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. She can be reached at sarahmk5@uci.edu.