On Monday, Sept. 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 37 (AB 37), which requires all voters in the state to receive their ballots by mail.
The bill is a continuation—with significant modifications—of AB 860, which was introduced in June 2020 because of the pandemic. It was safer for people to send their ballots by mail.
Under AB 37, all voters registered on the state’s rolls will receive their ballots by mail 29 days before Election Day and return them up to Election Day. They will be accepted and counted as valid even up to a week after the election.
Unlike in-person voting, which requires voters to identify themselves when they cast their ballot, mail-in voting in California under the new election law features a certified remote accessible vote.
The certified remote accessible vote by mail system was initially created and adopted in 2017 for people with various disabilities and active military stationed out of state or overseas. The voter receives the digital ballot through this system, which is digitally verified, filled out, printed, and mailed.
The BL contacted one of the certified vote-by-mail system providers to understand better how it works and what security measures they have in place, but they had received no reply at the time of this report.
The law also requires each county to make available one or two locations to drop off ballot envelopes depending on the size of the roll.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement.
Mail-in vote: stark contrast of Democratic support and Republican opposition
California Republicans who voted against AB 37 allege that mail-in vote is prone to fraud.
During the special election, last Sept. 14, a man in Torrance was found with 300 unopened ballot envelopes in his car that he had stolen.
Republican Senator Andreas Borgeas said several legislators received more than one ballot at their homes.
According to the California Globe, Borges said, “So if I’m getting two ballots, I know others are getting multiple ballots as well, and that feeds into this narrative of distrust [in voting by mail].”
However, Democrats say that Torrance’s case is isolated and that mail-in ballots allow only one vote per person due to barcode tracking, and that voter fraud is just a ‘conspiracy theory fueled by misinformation on social media,’ making a clear reference to the November 2020 presidential election.
According to LA Times, California’s voter rolls have grown exponentially since the state automated voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), meaning that every person who has a California driver’s license is automatically registered as a voter.
California also allows people to register and vote on Election Day.
State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, expressed his disapproval of the practice:
“I strongly oppose this legislation that comes at a time when a significant amount of voters already have lost their confidence in the electoral process. We haven’t purged voter rolls in decades … These voter rolls are already a mess from the DMV practice of automatically registering Californians to vote, creating a catch-all system that allows ineligible voters to participate.”
Democratic leaders from different states and various Hollywood celebrities, have been critical of laws passed in states like Georgia and Texas that require people to show ID to vote, a universally accepted practice for even making a credit card purchase, and of curtailing mail-in voting.
San Francisco Democratic Senator Scott Weiner said:
“Expanding the ability to vote, which is what we’re doing today, does not reduce confidence. We’re doing the opposite of what’s happening in places like Texas and Georgia and other states that are trying to make it very difficult for people to vote, especially urban dwellers, people of color, low-income people, students, in order to manipulate election results.”
A poll conducted in June of this year by the Election Integrity Polling Project found that 80 percent of voters—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—favor voters identifying themselves when casting their ballot, and 77 percent reject the idea that asking a voter for identification is “racist.”