Tom Umberg

Berman and Umberg Vote by Mail bill signed into law by Governor Newsom

Governor Gavin Newsom has just signed Assembly Bill 860, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and Senator Tom Umberg (D-Orange County), requiring county elections officials to mail active registered voters a ballot for the General Election this November. The bill cleared its final hurdle in the Legislature earlier today, passing out of the Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing AB 860 as soon as it reached his desk,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman, Chair of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. “Californians will start voting in just over 100 days.

In the midst of a deadly health pandemic, mailing a ballot to every California voter, and giving them the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home, is the responsible thing to do. No Californian should have to risk their health – and possibly their life – to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Approximately 78% of California’s active registered voters received a ballot in the mail before the March Primary Election this year. Since California held that election, at least 16 states either postponed their scheduled primary elections or switched them to vote by mail elections due to concerns that conducting in-person voting during the spread of COVID-19 threatens the health and safety of voters, election workers, and the public generally. In anticipation of heightened interest in voting by mail, AB 860 proactively ensures that active registered voters in California will receive a ballot in the mail.

Importantly, in-person voting opportunities would remain available for voters in a manner that protects the health and safety of voters and election workers. Senate Bill 423 by Senator Tom Umberg would require county elections officials to establish and maintain a minimum number of polling places and vote centers for the statewide general election on November 3, 2020. SB 423 was introduced alongside AB 860 and is currently in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

“I commend the governor for recognizing the need for mail-in ballots to be sent to the voters of California as we face the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. The state must prepare now for the elections in November, so that we protect our democracy,” said Senator Tom Umberg, Chair of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. “Sending California voters a ballot is only one part of the solution for a safe and fair election. We must also provide sanitary, in-person voting locations available to provide access to valuable services like Election-Day registration, language assistance with ballots, disability assistance with voting, and more. With AB 860 and SB 423 in place, California can be a leader in protecting the health of its voters while protecting their constitutional right to vote.”

Last week, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Perry Parker issued a temporary restraining order blocking Governor Newsom’s recentexecutive order that requires active California voters to be mailed vote-by-mail ballots for the November General Election and requires counties to make available a minimum number of polling places for voters to vote in person. Yesterday, the Third District Court of Appeals put a stay on the Superior Court’s temporary restraining order.

“California is moving in a swift, bipartisan manner, to fortify our democracy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Expanding vote-by-mail statewide is a necessity to protect our right to vote and our public health. Voting by mail has worked safely and securely in California for decades. Mailing every voter a ballot for this election is simply common sense.”

The passage of AB 860 provides much needed clarity for elections officials and California voters about the conduct of this November’s Presidential General Election.