Governor Newsom Signs Law Ordering Mail-in Ballots for November Election

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that requires election officials in California to mail a ballot to every registered, active voter for the November 3, 2020, general election.

Assembly Bill 860, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) and Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), also extends the deadline to receive and count ballots mailed on or before election day to November 20, 2020—17 days after the election.

The bill closely mirrors the Governor’s Executive Order N-64-20, issued on May 8, 2020, which required all county election officials to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters in their jurisdictions. The legislation adds a qualifier that registered voters must be “active” to automatically receive a ballot in the mail. This initial order and yesterday’s legislation are aimed at reducing the risk to voters from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation comes on the heels of legal controversies surrounding similar changes in law. On June 3, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a second order, Executive Order N-67-20, which modified several state election laws and reiterated the goal of sending ballots to all eligible voters. However, a state superior court issued a temporary restraining order following the filing of a lawsuit supported by Northern California Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin). The legislators argued the order violates separation of powers protections. The temporary restraining order was stayed by Presiding Justice Vance Raye of the Third District Court of Appeal on June 17, 2020. More information on this litigation is available here.

Manatt is working in support of providing vote-by-mail ballots to all registered California voters for the November general election so that voters have the choice to vote by mail during the current COVID-19 pandemic. More information is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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