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California to permanently send mail ballots to all voters

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Monday permanently extending a practice requiring election officials to send mail ballots to all eligible voters for every election. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Monday permanently extending a practice requiring election officials to send mail ballots to all eligible voters for every election. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a law requiring the state to send mail ballots to voters in all elections.

The law permanently extends the practice adopted in the 2020 election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic requiring county election officials to mail a ballot to every active registered voter for every election, whether they request one or not. Voters maintain the right to vote at a physical polling location if they so choose.

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"As states across our country 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."

The measure, introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Marc Berman of Menlo Park, also indefinitely extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days after the election to seven days.

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State records indicate that approximately 70% of eligible Californians voted in the 2020 election, the highest turnout rate for a general election since 1952.

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Additionally, more than 50% of votes cast in general elections in the state have been sent by mail since 2012, despite voters previously having to request a ballot from county officials.

California moved to send mail ballots to all registered voters in May 2020 in an effort to encourage mail-in voting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The practice was extended through 2021 and used during the Sept. 14 recall vote against Newsom.

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The move comes as many states including Florida, Georgia and Texas have implemented legislation to increase barriers to mail-in voting and other alternatives to physical polling locations.

The U.S. Department of Justice has taken action against these laws, including suing the state of Georgia and issuing guidance notifying states about their obligations under federal law when conducting post-election audits and changes to voting laws.

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