California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a bill that will require election officials to send mail ballots to every registered voter, The Sacramento Bee reports.
Under the new law, election officials will send ballots to every voter even if they did not request one, though voters are still free to vote in person. The new law will also extend the deadline for election offices to receive the ballots from three days after the election to seven days.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement. “Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
Most voters already cast ballots by mail:
In California, where 70% of eligible voters cast ballots last year, most eligible residents have been voting by mail for years.
More than 50% of voters have cast ballots by mail since 2012.
Lawmakers last year required election officials to send mail ballots to every active voter amid the pandemic. Data shows that 86.7% of votes were cast by mail in the state.
Lawmakers extended the practice through 2021, sending ballots during Newsom’s recall election.
“Vote-by-mail has significantly increased participation of eligible voters. Voters like having options for returning their ballot whether by mail, at a secure drop box, a voting center or at a traditional polling station,” said Secretary of State Shirley Weber. “And the more people who participate in elections, the stronger our democracy and the more we have assurance that elections reflect the will of the people of California.”
GOP cries foul:
California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson accused Democrats of trying to “manipulate election regulations for their political advantage” even though Republicans in other states like Florida and Utah have relied on mail ballots for years.
“Republicans will hold them accountable through our election integrity operations – including litigation, where appropriate – and by recruiting and supporting candidates who will provide solutions to California’s numerous challenges,” she said.
Republican consultant Rob Stutzman said there was “no point” in Republicans complaining about the new law because it was likely to only discourage Republican turnout.
“Denigrating the idea of voting by mail only hurts Republicans in maximizing their turnout,” he said. “Republicans would be better off enthusiastically signaling to Republican voters that they should feel confident in mail ballots.”