California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he had signed an executive order to mail ballots to the state’s 20.6 million registered voters, citing potential health risks due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a lot of excitement around this November’s election in terms of making sure that you can conduct yourself in a safe way, and make sure your health is protected,” Newsom said Friday. In March, the state allowed ballots to be mailed in for its primary, which saw a record-high of 72 percent of all ballots that were cast by mail.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who heads the state’s elections, commended the move “It’s great for public health, it’s great for voting rights, it’s going to be great for participation,” he said. California already allows for generous absentee voting, passing a 2002 decision which gives voters the option to request permanent voting by mail, regardless of the reason.
While Newsom’s decision applies only to the November election, it could set a precedent for other Democratic states, with voting by mail quickly becoming a partisan issue. It comes after the state’s lawmakers and local officials requested the measure, saying coronavirus will severely hamper voting efforts, a complaint echoed by prominent Democrats.
“Why should we be saying to people, ‘Stand in line for hours,’ when we don’t even want you leaving the house?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in April. But President Trump has repeatedly slammed calls for mail-in voting, saying last month that it lets “people cheat” and involves “a lot of dishonesty.”
Newsom said that his order would still allow an “appropriate number” of in-person voting sites, saying that some voters, including those that are disabled, require technological help to cast a ballot.