Politics

California Senate Passes Bill Mandating Vote-By-Mail Ballots For This Year’s Elections

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The California Senate passed a bill on Jan. 28 that would require vote-by-mail ballots to be sent to all voters for this year’s special elections, sparking concern in opponents who fear the proposed law could normalize pandemic-style elections and discourage traditional in-person voting.

Existing law required county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for the Nov. 3 general election. Senate Bill 29 (SB 29), which passed by a 29-7 vote and now heads to the State Assembly, would extend that mandate to all elections proclaimed or conducted prior to Jan. 1, 2022.

State Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), who voted against the measure, told The Epoch Times that the bill threatens to erode voting rights that are precious. “We must do everything we can to ensure the integrity of our election system by opposing these attempts to destroy it,” she said via email.

“Now, more than ever, Californians need to have confidence in the integrity of our elections and that they are free from manipulation. SB 29 only seeks to make mail-in voting more ‘normal’ by extending its uses beyond its stated purpose of preventing COVID transmission.”

Proponents maintain that vote-by-mail ballots sent to all registered voters for special elections will provide a safer alternative to voting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), the bill’s author, attributed California’s historic “voter turnout” in the Nov. 3 general election to vote-by-mail ballots, which he asserted were “safe, secure, and accurate.”

During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing earlier this month, Umberg said the election “worked out quite well except for a couple of irregularities, primarily in Orange County.” He cited the highest voter turnout since President Harry S. Truman was in office.

In addition to providing additional safety for voters and poll workers, “SB 29 simply takes some of the provisions that were enacted because of the COVID crisis in the November 2020 election and incorporates them into special elections in 2021,” Umberg said at the Jan. 21 hearing.

Election Integrity Project California (EIPCa), a citizens’ watchdog group focused on California elections, fears that the newly proposed state law opens the door to increased voter fraud by extending Assembly Bill 860 (AB 860), which required county officials to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters statewide for the Nov. 3 election.

In a letter of opposition to the SB 29 addressed to California Senate committee members, EIPCa states that for the November election, California officials mailed ballots to 416,633 registrants who had not voted for 12 or more years.

EIPCa Director of Legislative Oversight Ruth Weiss cited those statistics and others contained in the letter at a Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee hearing on Jan. 14, where she urged the committee to reject SB 29 and “not to double down on such a disastrous mistake.”

“A vibrant and functional democratic process cannot tolerate California’s current disregard for clear errors in the voter rolls,” she told the committee. “Californians can have no faith in a system that would perpetrate policies that lead to the statistics such as the ones our opposition letter provides.”

Sen. Melendez concurred, saying, “The smoke screen of COVID should not be the basis for degrading our election system without addressing the loopholes and inac… (Read more)

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