Recognizing the threat COVID-19 continues to pose to public health, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to ensure that Californians can exercise their right to vote in a safe and accessible manner during the General Election this November. The order requires that each county’s elections officials send vote-by-mail ballots for the Nov. 3, 2020 General Election to all registered voters. Californians who may need access to in-person voting opportunities – including individuals with disabilities, individuals who speak languages other than English, individuals experiencing homelessness, and others – will still be able to access in-person voting opportunities.
“Elections and the right to vote are foundational to our democracy,” said Newsom. “No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote. Mail-in ballots aren’t a perfect solution for every person, and I look forward to our public health experts and the secretary of state’s and the legislature’s continued partnership to create safer in-person opportunities for Californians who aren’t able to vote by mail.”
According to a statement from the governor, his administration will continue to work with the legislature and the secretary of state to determine how requirements for in-person voting opportunities and other details of the November election will be implemented, while preserving public health and giving county elections officials needed flexibility. If by May 30, 2020 counties do not yet have clarity for in-person voting opportunities and other details of the November election, it may be necessary to issue a further executive order addressing these issues.
“California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” said Alex Padilla, secretary of state. “I thank governor Newsom for taking decisive action now to preserve voting rights and provide sufficient time to properly prepare for the General Election. Today we become the first state in the nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by mailing every registered voter a ballot. We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure, and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Today’s executive order is a critical first step to ensuring California’s November 2020 election is safe and accessible,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause. “While other states are fighting for access to vote-by-mail ballots, governor Newsom has ensured that for California voters and we can now push ahead, together, on the difficult work of ensuring in-person voting sites for voters with language needs, voters with disabilities, voters without reliable access to mail, and other voters who need in-person voting to access their vote.”