Gov. Newsom Signs Law Allowing All Californians To Vote By Mail This Fall

A stack of vote-by-mail ballots sit in a box after being sorted at the San Francisco Department of Elections.

A stack of vote-by-mail ballots sit in a box after being sorted at the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Governor Gavin Newsom this week signed a bill that will allow all registered Californians to vote by mail in the upcoming November election. The Governor said he wanted mail-in ballots made available to eligible voters to mitigate the risk of further spreading COVID-19 that in-person voting could cause throughout the state. He claims his goal is to avoid election problems seen in other states during the pandemic, where thousands of voters sometimes had to wait for hours in long lines to cast their ballot in person. A lack face coverings and social distancing proved to be a concern for health officials during those elections in Wisconsin, for example.

The Democratic governor had issued an executive order requiring all election officials in all of California's counties to issue mail-in ballots last month, but that order was put on hold after being challenged in court.

During the legislative process, this new law was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman of Menlo Park.

"No one should have to risk their health and possibly their life to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Berman said in a statement. "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."

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, another Democrat and the state's top elections official, said in his own statement that mail-in ballots for all this fall is simply common sense.

"Expanding vote-by-mail statewide is a necessity to protect our right to vote and our public health," Padilla wrote. "Voting by mail has worked safely and securely in California for decades."

California has already conducted an election this year in which mail-in ballots were method of choice by a majority of voters. The March primary saw over three-quarters of the state's active registered voters receive their ballot in the mail.

That's not the only change brought about by this new election law. Under prior state law, your mail-in ballot would still be counted even if it arrived at your county elections office as many as three days after the election, so long as it was postmarked no later than election day. For this year, your ballot will still be valid for up to 17 days after the polls close on November 3rd.