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California

California made enormous progress in 2020 and 2021 by transitioning to a full Vote By Mail system, proactively mailing all voters ballots, implementing statewide ballot tracking, and extending ballot pre-processing and receipt timelines. The State now has the opportunity to further strengthen its electoral system by codifying these temporary reforms, joining ERIC, and implementing RLAs statewide. These improvements will bring California one step closer to a more safe, efficient, and voter-friendly election process. As always, while policies are important, effective implementation is just as important.

 

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

California allows ballot pre-processing for all counties that either administer all-mail elections or have the computer capability to pre-process. While this is a great start, the State should also ensure that all counties have the computer capacity to conduct this important electoral process, which would facilitate universal pre-processing.

Recent Legislation

As of Sept. 29, 2021

The 2016 California’s Voter’s Choice Act allowed counties to transition fully to Vote By Mail (sending all voters a ballot) and required all counties to provide greater ballot return options. This policy eased the State’s 2020 transition to statewide Vote By Mail. Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature acted swiftly to speed up California’s transition. By passing AB 860, the Legislature made all counties send all voters mail ballots for the 2020 general election. Foreseeing the massive increase in mail ballots, the law extended the state’s preprocessing and already generous ballot receipt deadline and added ballot tracking to increase voter confidence. 15 of California’s 58 counties were already fully Vote By Mail by 2020, and others are preparing to transition in the future.

During its 2021 session, with AB37 the California Legislature made the transition to statewide full Vote At Home permanent, as well as other Vote At Home policies enacted from the 2020 general election, including extended preprocessing and ballot tracking, into law. Before this bill, it had done this temporarily until 2022 with SB 29. The state also passed AB 796 and SB 503 to amend its existing automatic voter registration and signature verification policies. Lastly, the state passed SB521 to allow the extended preprocessing from 2020 to 2021, as well as permanently extending postmark acceptance and allowing all counties to create vote centers.