California Becomes First State to Implement Total Vote-by-Mail Plan

Governor Gavin Newsom Orders 20.6 Million Ballots to Be Mailed to Voters

Governor Gavin Newsom | Credit: Paul Wellman

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Governor Gavin Newsom ordered November election ballots to be mailed out to all 20.6 million registered California voters — making California the first state in the country to adopt a vote-by-mail plan amid pandemic fears.

“California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “I thank Governor Newsom for taking decisive action now, to preserve voting rights and provide sufficient time to properly prepare for the general election.”


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Per Newsom’s order on Friday, every registered voter living domestically will be mailed a ballot 29 days prior to Election Day; military and overseas voters will be mailed their ballots 45 days before Election Day. Although California has not done all-mail elections before, it is poised to do so, as more than 75 percent of the state’s voters received a vote-by-mail ballot in the Presidential Primary held March 3, 2020.

Newsom’s order also allows for voting in person, though. Many voters with disabilities or other obstacles require in-person help to cast their ballots. Voting booths, though they will likely require strict social-distancing requirements, will not disappear in the pandemic.

“While expanding vote-by-mail is critical, we remain committed to providing as many in-person voting opportunities, on and before Election Day, in a manner that is safe for both voters and election workers,” Padilla said. “In-person opportunities are important for voters who may need assistance or need access to same day voter registration.”


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