How California reached historic voter turnout despite pandemic, distrust | Lewis Griswold/CalMatters

Californians faced the naysayers and voted by mail in record numbers this election, potentially avoiding a pandemic super spreader event and showing the nation it could be done. CalMatters interviewed voting officials in most of the state’s 58 counties and their verdict is in: The experiment with voting by mail saw few glitches, little drama and, instead, might well provide a blueprint for future elections across the country. Indeed, state officials are already talking about plans to make voting by mail permanent for the biggest state in the union and its 22 million registered voters. Besides the unprecedented challenge of conducting the election in a pandemic, voting officials also had to deal with a deep, partisan divide that helped to fuel widespread misinformation about election security. Yet by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. Nov. 3, voter registrars say they had little need for law enforcement help and reported insignificant incidents affecting ballot safety. They reported historic numbers of ballots cast, about 17.6 million at last count, and almost 208,000 more still to process as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Full Article: How California reached historic voter turnout despite pandemic, distrust | cbs8.com

California: Hawthorne men accused in voter fraud plot to obtain 8,000 mail ballots for ‘nonexistent or deceased’ persons | James Queally/Los Angeles Times

As judges around the U.S. continue to dismiss claims of voter fraud by President Trump and his supporters, prosecutors and election officials in Los Angeles County said Tuesday that they had uncovered evidence of an actual attempt to fix an election — albeit a small, local one. Carlos Antonio De Bourbon Montenegro, 53, and Marcos Raul Arevalo, 34, were charged with multiple counts of voter fraud after allegedly trying to register 8,000 “fictitious, nonexistent or deceased” voters to receive mail-in ballots. The scheme was part of an illicit bid by Montenegro to become mayor of Hawthorne, according to a criminal complaint made public Tuesday. Montenegro and Arevalo allegedly used three recently registered post office boxes and Montenegro’s home address to submit the fraudulent applications, which allowed election officials to quickly flag them as suspicious in mid-October, according to Dean Logan, the county’s top election official. While court records show at least 29 mail-in ballots were issued to people Montenegro and Arevalo had allegedly ginned up, none of the ballots were tallied in the general election, Logan said. The case, he added, highlights how difficult it would be to carry out the widespread voter fraud President Trump and others have claimed was rampant in the 2020 election. “What this does is it illustrates that election officials here as well as across the country take these issues very seriously. This was 8,000 registrations in a jurisdiction that has 5.8 million voters,” said Logan, noting that the fraud narratives being pushed across the country would have required election officials to fail to notice misconduct on a massively larger scale.

Full Article: Hawthorne men accused in voter fraud plot to obtain 8,000 mail ballots for ‘nonexistent or deceased’ persons – Los Angeles Times

California: Some Oakland ballots not counted, civil rights groups say | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

A coalition of civil rights and voting advocacy groups lashed out Friday at Alameda County election officials after poll workers wrongly told more than 150 voters that their paper ballot was only a receipt and that it could be taken home, leading to the votes not being counted. The mistake, the groups allege, affected voters who visited one or more locations in Oakland to cast ballots in person between Oct. 31 and election day. “We spoke to some of the poll workers there who were really alarmed,” said Angelica Salceda, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The voting rights advocates said that some voters who showed up at a polling place on the campus of Mills College during the four-day period were told the ballot marking device they had used was keeping a digital record of their selections on federal, state and local races. In reality, the device only makes marks on a paper ballot, which the voter then must submit to an election official. Instead, poll workers “incorrectly told voters … that the printouts from the machines were ‘receipts’ that the voters should take with them, rather than official ballots that they should deposit in the ballot box,” representatives of 15 civil rights and voting rights groups wrote in a letter Thursday to Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County registrar of voters. “In general, voters who cast their ballots at Mills College were disproportionately Black, and many of the voters who had been actively encouraged by poll workers to use the [ballot marking devices] were disabled or elderly.”

Full Article: Some Oakland ballots not counted, civil rights groups say – Los Angeles Times

California: Trump falsely claims fraud in Los Angeles elections. The truth is there were few problems | Matt Stiles/Los Angeles Times

Voters may have differed on their ballot choices in last week’s election, but they seemed to be in agreement on one thing: Drop boxes are a great idea. The boxes sprinkled around Los Angeles County were a “phenomenal” success, according to the county’s top election official. President Trump thinks they’re evidence of fraud. Spoiler alert. They’re not. The president Wednesday tweeted a long-debunked video showing election workers collecting votes from a drop box on Nov. 4, the day after polls closed, suggesting that the process is evidence of fraud. In fact, the boxes had been closed and locked the night of the election, when the polls closed, and it took time for election workers to collect them in the following days. Under state law, mail votes cast by election day will be collected and counted until Nov. 20. The spurious suggestion of fraud is the latest in the president’s strategy to question the results of the election, in which former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner Saturday. Fact checkers have since debunked concerns about the drop boxes, more than 400 of which were spread from Lancaster to Long Beach.

Full Article: Trump falsely claims fraud in L.A. elections. The truth is there were few problems – Los Angeles Times

California may go all-mail in every election | John Wildermuth/San Francisco Chronicle

The huge turnout and the record number of Californians who cast their votes by mail in last week’s election could mean the end of the line for the garages, school cafeterias and other spots that for decades have been neighborhood polling places. Because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, every active voter in California received a ballot in the mail this fall. And what looks to be 80% of the more than 17 million voters used them. Even the counties that clung to their traditional polling places found few voters willing to use them on election day. In San Francisco, which had 588 polling places open for business, only 6% of its 443,000 voters cast their ballots in person in their local precincts, said John Arntz, the city’s elections director. Even the 43,000 people who dropped their mail ballots off at the polling places amounted to far fewer than in recent elections. “This is likely the last polling place election in San Francisco,” said Arntz, who is scheduled to submit a plan to the Board of Supervisors in February about what would be needed to move to an all-mail system.

Full Article: Goodbye to neighborhood polling places? California may go all-mail in every election – SFChronicle.com

California dramatically cut provisional ballots. Here’s how | Lewis Griswold/CalMatters

Election workers around California discovered good news in this year’s crush of ballots to be processed and counted: far fewer provisionals. Officials who faced a mountain of 1 million provisional ballots four years ago instead found just over one-third of that this year. The Secretary of State’s office reported Thursday that counties have an estimated 354,600 to process. Provisional ballots chew up time from election workers because of the work involved. They must verify that the voter is registered in the county and has not already cast a ballot. Election officials credit new vote centers available in 15 counties for the lower number of provisional ballots. Brandi Orth, registrar of voters for Fresno County, said the centers allow staff to resolve issues on the spot, unlike traditional polling places that didn’t offer similar services. “They can now determine if they voted or not,” she said. Provisional ballots are used when election workers cannot verify at the polls if the voter is eligible to vote.

Full Article: California dramatically cut provisional ballots. Here’s how | CalMatters

California: Riverside County voters waited hours; glitch fixed, officials say | Alex Wigglesworth/Los Angeles Times

Some voters reported waiting for hours to cast a ballot in Riverside County on Saturday because of a technological glitch, which officials say has since been fixed. The slowdown was caused by an issue with the voter registration “look-up system,” officials said. When people arrive at a voting center to cast a ballot in person, staffers look them up in the system to check them in and then void the vote-by-mail ballot that was sent to their home, said Brooke Federico, a spokeswoman for Riverside County. At some of the county’s 130 voting centers, the volume of people seeking to check in at once caused the registration look-up system, effectively, to freeze, she said. “It wasn’t for the entire day, and it wasn’t at all locations, but there were intermittent delays where it was simply timing out and our teams at the voter assistance centers weren’t able to confirm an individual voter,” she said.Voters were urged to be patient and, in some locations, given provisional ballots, she said. Some took to social media to report waiting for more than three hours to vote. “We do understand that there were significant delays for our voters at certain locations,” Federico said. The issue did not affect the ballot marking machines, which are not connected to the internet, she said.

Full Article: Riverside County voters waited hours; glitch fixed, officials say – Los Angeles Times

California: How To Vote In A Pandemic When You’ve Lost Your Home In A Wildfire | Isabella Bloom and Marco Torrez/CalMatters

In August, as lightning strikes ignited fires around his Napa County home, Ian MacMillan escaped the flames with his wife, three kids and mother-in-law. A month later, when another wildfire roared through Northern California’s wine country, they had to flee their home again.“It sounded like a war zone,” MacMillan, 41, said. “The fire was blazing, the winds were bad and you could hear the propane tanks going off.” This time, their house didn’t make it.MacMillan spent the next few weeks attending to urgent matters, like finding a place to live. Now that he and his family are temporarily settled, however, he is planning to pick up his ballot at the post office where his mail is being held. “I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it’s there,” he said.California has tried to make it easier for residents to vote during the pandemic by sending a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter. But for MacMillan and thousands of others who have lost their homes to wildfires this year, mail-in voting poses a unique set of challenges. “Ballots, in some cases, were mailed when the fire was going on and may have been destroyed in their mailbox or in their homes,” said John Tuteur, the Napa County Registrar of Voters. Replacement ballots can be mailed outside of voters’ registered counties, even out of state, as long as they are requested by October 27.

California: ‘MAGA’ hats allowed but ‘Biden’ gear banned under in-person voting rules | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

California election rules prohibit clothing, signs and swag urging support for a specific candidate at polling places, but state officials have decided no such ban exists on items emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” a mantra championed by President Trump. If there’s a distinction between a shirt bearing the name of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the ubiquitous hats featured prominently in Trump’s online store, it may be lost on voters come election day. “I want to make sure the public knows what the rules are,” said Kammi Foote, the registrar of voters in Inyo County. “I don’t want to be accused of favoritism allowing MAGA gear but telling people with a Biden/Harris mask to remove it. ”California has long differentiated between political slogans and what the law defines as “electioneering” — displaying information about a candidate or campaign — at a polling place or vote center. Last month, state elections officials made clear that gear bearing the Trump slogan would not be considered synonymous with showing support for the president’s reelection.

California: Smooth Vote-by-Mail Elections in Colorado, Utah Provide Model for California | Guy Marzorati/KQED

The primaries conducted in Colorado and Utah this week played out like a California election official’s dream: Record turnout. Voting centers without lines. And a robust election workforce with ample protective gear. “We were able to set a record turnout for a state primary, even during the pandemic,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. The smooth administration of two largely vote-by-mail elections this week provides a model for California, where officials are preparing to send every voter a mail ballot in the fall. The smooth administration of two largely vote-by-mail elections this week provides a model for California, where officials are preparing to send every voter a mail ballot in the fall. Roughly three-quarters of California voters already receive a ballot in the mail. But with the spread of COVID-19 threatening the safety of in-person voting in November, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators from both parties have moved to expand options for voters to cast their ballot at home.

California: Los Angeles County has found the cause of its hourslong poll lines. It wasn’t the new voting machines. | Kim Zetter/Politico

The hourslong wait times that snarled the March 3 primary in Los Angeles County stemmed from malfunctions in the electronic tablets used to check in voters at the polls, according to an unpublicized county report that adds to questions about the nation’s readiness for November. The report concludes that these devices — known as electronic poll books — and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays. Although the voting machines also had problems, the report faults inadequate planning, testing and programming of the poll books that workers used to check in voters and verify that they’re registered — technology that has also been implicated in this month’s meltdown at the polls in Georgia’s primary. Electronic poll books store a copy of the county’s voter registration list and automatically update that list as each voter checks in. Because Los Angeles County did not have backup paper copies of the voter list, poll workers were not able to check in voters when the devices failed, leading to long lines. The hourslong wait times that snarled the March 3 primary in Los Angeles County stemmed from malfunctions in the electronic tablets used to check in voters at the polls, according to an unpublicized county report that adds to questions about the nation’s readiness for November. The report concludes that these devices — known as electronic poll books — and not the county’s new $300 million voting machines were the source of those delays. Although the voting machines also had problems, the report faults inadequate planning, testing and programming of the poll books that workers used to check in voters and verify that they’re registered — technology that has also been implicated in this month’s meltdown at the polls in Georgia’s primary. Electronic poll books store a copy of the county’s voter registration list and automatically update that list as each voter checks in. Because Los Angeles County did not have backup paper copies of the voter list, poll workers were not able to check in voters when the devices failed, leading to long lines. The findings about the March primary, which Los Angeles County quietly posted to its website recently, have not previously been reported.

California: Los Angeles County Claims Elections Will Be Smoother, Voters Aren’t Convinced | Nathan Solis/Courthouse News

Just weeks before health orders effectively shut down the nation due to the novel coronavirus, Los Angeles County voters waited for hours to cast their vote in the March primary election. What should have been the public introduction of a new $300 million voting system turned into a public stumble. An independent review of the election system released Friday details issues with computer tablets used to check-in voters at polling places, improperly trained staff and poor communication. The ePollbook, an iPad-like tablet meant to check-in voters, was unable to sync with the county’s voter database, according to a summary of the independent report. The county announced the findings of the independent review on Friday, but the summary released to the public is dated from earlier in the month. A spokesperson said the county would not release the full document to the public because the report “contains confidential information prepared for the Board of Supervisors and intended to safeguard and improve the voting system and the technology that supports it.”

California: Legislature enacts November mail-ballot law — with surprising GOP support | Jeremy B. White /Politico

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday bolstered his plan to mail every voter a ballot for the November election by signing legislation that passed earlier the same day with support from several Republicans, belying monthslong criticism of absentee voting from President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders. Newsom had already ordered county elections officials to send all eligible Californians ballots in an effort to prevent the general election from becoming a coronavirus health hazard. But that directive has drawn multiple legal challenges — including from the California Republican Party — so enshrining the all-mail mandate in statute puts it on stronger legal footing. By signing Assembly Bill 860 into law, Newsom defused the principal legal argument against the universal vote-by-mail argument. Plaintiffs argued he had exceeded his authority by implementing a sweeping change to election management without consulting the Legislature. California elected officials wanted to avoid a situation like Wisconsin’s April primary, which saw long lines potentially expose voters to other people for long periods. Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) said AB 860 would prevent Californians from being effectively disenfranchised. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also supports the measure.

California: Senate OKs bill to mail ballots for fall election | Adam Beam/Associated Press

Fearing a surge of coronavirus cases that could force a second statewide shutdown in the fall, the California Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would guarantee all registered voters get a ballot in the mail before the November election. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has already ordered ballots to be mailed. But Republican congressional candidate Darrell Issa and the Republican National Committee have sued, arguing his order is illegal. The bill is an attempt by lawmakers to make sure it happens anyway. Election officials nationwide have explored vote-by-mail options this year because of the pandemic, prompting condemnation from President Donald Trump, who has claimed that “mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

California: Officials confident it can run November election smoothly even with coronavirus | John Wildermuth/San Francisco Chronicle

The coronavirus turned what already promised to be an unprecedented presidential election year into a new test for California and its voting system, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Friday. The March 3 primary spotlighted the enthusiasm California voters were feeling, Padilla said in an hour-long online interview with Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. “We entered 2020 knowing this would be a big election year,” the secretary said. “We had record registration of nearly 20.7 million. We had a record number of primary ballots cast. We had the highest-ever percentage of eligible voters registered. “Then COVID happened.” Less than two weeks after the primary, much of the state was shut down as officials tried to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which as of Friday has killed 4,481 Californians and sickened more than 123,000. It also left Padilla and election officials around the state scrambling to ensure that the November election, with what could be a record voter turnout, would run smoothly and, just as important, safely. Luckily, California had a head start on the needed changes, Padilla said.

California: Newsom orders new California in-person voting rules for November election | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave California counties permission on Wednesday to limit their in-person voting operations for the Nov. 3 election as protection against the spread of the coronavirus — but only if they also offer three days of early voting, a tradeoff some local officials said could be expensive and challenging. The decision, detailed in an executive order, came almost one month after Newsom instructed California counties to mail each of the state’s 20.6 million voters an absentee ballot for the upcoming election. In doing so, he noted that voting locations would still be provided, primarily for voters with disabilities and those seeking assistance in a language other than English. But Newsom’s earlier executive order, issued May 8, didn’t address where and when to set up voting sites, leaving elections officials in limbo on plans for the upcoming presidential election. The cost to implement the latest guidelines could be substantial, exceeding the federal dollars already earmarked for election assistance during the pandemic and further straining county government budgets stretched thin by public health and safety spending.

California: GOP launches its biggest attack yet on mail voting in California | Joseph Marks/The Washington Post

Top Republican groups threw their weight behind President Trump’s assault on voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic with a lawsuit challenging California’s expansion of the practice. But the groups, led by the Republican National Committee, are taking a far narrower approach than the president and steering clear of criticizing voting by mail as it will be practiced by basically every state besides California.  That narrow approach gives cover to Republican governors and secretaries of state who’ve been expanding mail voting even as the president criticizes it. Experts say increased mail voting is likely to be a vital part of conducting the general election safely and securely, including for groups, such as the elderly, who are more likely to vote for Republicans. But the move may rankle Trump, who’s taken a hard line against broadly expanding mail voting — despite voting by mail himself in Florida this year. He’s also claimed without evidence that mail-in ballots will produce widespread fraud.

California: Republicans sue California to try to halt mail-in voting following Trump claims of election fraud | Oliver O’Connell/The Independent

The Republican National Committee and two other Republican groups have filed a lawsuit against California to stop the state from mailing absentee ballots to all voters ahead of the 2020 general election. Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom decided to encourage mail-in voting, specifically for November’s presidential election, as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The RNC is challenging the move by the country’s most populous state, making the suit a significant front in the battle between Republicans and Democrats over the issue of mail-in votes. Similar legal challenges are ongoing in approximately a dozen states. Donald Trump has been particularly vocal in his opposition to mail-in votes, claiming there is widespread fraud when they are used, but without providing evidence.

California: Long Beach Reform Coalition files suit against Los Angeles County registrar over Measure A recount | Harry Salzgaver/ Press Telegram

The Long Beach Reform Coalition has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Clerk/Recorder Dean Logan over the county’s new voting system and an aborted recount of the city’s Measure A ballot initiative. The lawsuit, filed Monday, May 11, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to have the Registrar’s Office restart the Measure A recount “at a reasonable cost,” said Ian Patton, director of the coalition. Mike Sanchez, spokesperson for the registrar, said the office has not yet been served and has not seen any of the lawsuit documents. “We do not comment on active litigation,” Sanchez said in an email. Measure A was a ballot initiative during the March 3 election that sought to indefinitely extend the 10-year 10.25% city sales tax that voters passed in 2016. Its proponents said throughout the campaign that Long Beach needs more funds to address infrastructure and public safety needs. Those opposed, including the coalition, argued that Long Beach hasn’t been a good steward of the money it’s received from the tax since 2016. The initiative passed by 16 votes, with nearly 100,000 votes cast.

California: Long Beach group sues Los Angeles County Registrar over Measure A recount | Anita W. Harris/The Signal Tribune

Local activists the Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC) hired Los Angeles election-law specialists Strumwasser & Woocher to file suit in the LA County Superior Court against LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean Logan on Monday, May 11. “Our litigation seeks a writ of mandate and injunctive relief to force Mr. Logan to restart the recount of Long Beach Measure A as a traditional, paper-ballot recount at a reasonable cost,” LBRC said in a May 11 statement. Measure A had passed by a thin margin of 16 votes in the March 3 election, according to results certified by Logan’s office on March 27, with 49,676 voting in favor and 49,660 against. The measure’s passing extends an extra 1% Long Beach sales tax imposed in 2017 beyond its previous sunset date of 2027. The additional revenue bolsters public safety and improve infrastructure, including fire stations, libraries and parks, the City says. Given Measure A’s very narrow approval margin, LBRC requested a recount of the ballots beginning April 8, raising $26,000 from community supporters, according to its website.

California: ‘It’s all rigged’: Trump foreshadows how he could undermine presidential election | Sam Levine/The Guardian

Donald Trump falsely accused Democrats of trying to “steal” Tuesday’s special election in California amid the Covid-19 pandemic by adding a polling place in one of the most diverse sections of a district. But the county actually added the polling location at the request of the area’s Republican mayor. In a move that could foreshadow his approach to November’s presidential election, Trump said Democrats were deliberately adding one of the few polling locations over the weekend in Lancaster, a city North of Los Angeles, where it was likely to benefit Democratic voters. “They are trying to steal another election. It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!,” he tweeted. The election is expected to take place largely by mail, common in California, and the state mailed a ballot to all registered voters in the district. Still, there will be some opportunity for in-person voting. But though Democrats complained that the lack of a polling location in Lancaster would harm minority voters, officials added the additional location after R Rex Parris, the city’s Republican mayor, requested it.

California: California becomes first state to switch November election to all-mail balloting | Jeremy B. White/Politico

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday made California the first state to switch its November election to all-mail balloting due to concerns over physical participation during the coronavirus pandemic. Most Californians already live in counties that have opted into a new universal vote-by-mail law. But state leaders and elections officials have increasingly sounded the alarm about what happened in Wisconsin’s primary, where polling places saw long lines and crowds and many voters were fearful of the health risks of having to vote in person. Citing that “concern and anxiety around this November’s election,” Newsom signed an executive order requiring counties to mail voters a ballot. He had already mandated all-mail voting for a series of special elections, including an upcoming 25th Congressional District special election Tuesday in Southern California. Public health concerns have fueled a national push for more mail balloting in November, with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla championing the issue. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that every governor should follow California. “No voter should be forced to choose between their safety and exercising their civic duty this fall,” Clinton wrote on Twitter.

California: All California voters may vote by mail in November | Fiona Kelliher/San Jose Mercury News

All registered voters in California will be able to vote by mail in the November election, state officials said Friday, in an effort to maintain voter participation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new executive order makes California the first state to authorize sending vote-by-mail ballots to all voters in advance of the Nov. 3 general election, formalizing a vote-by-mail trend that’s been on the rise statewide for years. “There’s a lot of concern and anxiety around this November’s election in terms of making sure that you can conduct yourself in a safe way,” Newsom said in an afternoon briefing. “We’ll provide an additional asset and additional resources by way of voting by mail.” The decision came amid projections that the pandemic will continue through the fall, prompting fears that voters could be exposed to coronavirus at the polls or decide to stay home and not vote at all. In advance of the election, all counties will now be required to send registered voters actual ballots — not just applications — to avoid those outcomes. Still, Californians who need to vote in person, including those with disabilities or experiencing homelessness, will have access to physical sites, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

California: Voters asked to vote by mail in fall | John Myers/Los Angeles Times

Citing public health concerns over millions of Californians showing up at voting locations this fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday ordered ballots to be mailed to the state’s 20.6 million voters for the November election while insisting there will need to also be new rules for anyone who participates in person. The decision makes California the first state in the nation to temporarily shift to all-mail voting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — prompted, Newsom said, by the likelihood that public health conditions will not have improved to a level at which millions of people could show up on a single day to cast a ballot. “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 during a midday event. The decision to radically rethink the November election comes after a series of urgent requests and proposals made by lawmakers and local elections officials alike. Since the beginning of the coronavirus, health concerns have been raised in several states that have conducted in-person voting with turnout in November expected to be high.

California: A crippled US Postal Service could throw a wrench in November election for San Diego and beyond | Charles T. Clark/The San Diego Union-Tribune

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated problems for the U.S. Postal Service and sparked a debate in Washington D.C. that could carry major ramifications for the November general election in San Diego and beyond. The U.S. Postal Service, or USPS, has long been America’s most popular public agency; a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 91 percent of Americans had favorable opinions about the agency. Nevertheless the agency has frequently faced financial challenges which have escalated during the pandemic, as revenue plummeted and mail volume dropped more than 30 percent from last year. Federal officials said they expect things to worsen in coming months, projecting mail volume will be down 50 percent in the second quarter, which runs April through June. Postmaster General Megan Brennan also told Congress last month she expects USPS will run out of cash by the end of September if it doesn’t receive government assistance, and the service has projected it could lose more than $23 billion over the next 18 months.

California: State Prepares for An All Vote-by-Mail Election in November | Ben Christopher/CalMatters

This coming November, every one of California’s more than 20 million registered voters may receive a ballot in the mail — whether they ask for one or not. In fact, many election administrators and advocates say it’s inevitable. “It’s not a question of ‘if,’ said Kim Alexander, the president of the California Voter Foundation. “But ‘how.’” California is already ahead of the curve when it comes to voting from home. In the March primary election, 75% of voters got a ballot in their mailbox. But the exigencies of social distancing are putting pressure on state lawmakers to round that up to 100%, ensuring that every registered voter has the option to cast a ballot without having to physically crowd into a polling place. A bill from Palo Alto Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman would ensure just that. But with most state legislators sheltering in place until at least early May, all eyes are on the governor who, with an executive order, could make the upcoming election an all-mail affair.

California: As Los Angeles County expands vote by mail due to pandemic, NAACP and CAP warn against eliminating polling places | Kristen Farrah Naee/The Signal Tribune

With many counties across the nation, including Los Angeles County, expanding vote-by-mail options for constituents in order to support voter participation and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Center for American Progress (CAP) have released a joint publication stating that an increase in vote by mail registration should not be used as a reason to eliminate or decrease in person polling places. A proposal to mail ballots to every registered voter in Los Angeles County passed unanimously by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 28. Beginning with the General Election in November, all county residents will receive vote-by-mail ballots. The accepted motion also includes instructions to send a five-signature letter to the Los Angeles County State Legislative Delegation asking for emergency state funds to be allocated for the accelerated expansion of vote by mail procedures.

California: Republicans Sue to Stop Collection of Ballots Amid Pandemic | Nick Cahill/Courthouse News

Though it has used the tactic in recent elections, the California Republican Party on Wednesday sued state officials to ban “ballot harvesting” in the upcoming runoff for the seat of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday in state court against Governor Gavin Newsom and other officials, the party claims allowing campaign workers and volunteers to go door-to-door to collect ballots conflicts with the statewide shelter-in-place order caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit accuses Newsom of “dodging” the party’s requests for clarity as to whether the practice should be allowed in a pair of May 12 special elections. Party chair Jessica Millan Patterson blasted Newsom in a statement and accused him of “putting Californians’ lives at risk” by not explicitly barring the practice.

California: Los Angeles County Supervisors approve mail-in ballots for November election | Tammy Murga/Santa Clarita Valley Signal

Los Angeles County voters will be sent vote-by-mail ballots for all elections, starting with the Nov. 3 general election, according to a unanimous vote by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The decision comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended many aspects of life, including voting. “Voting is a right that should not come at the cost of being exposed to the virus,” read the approved motion by supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl. Despite success in flattening the curve among residents by practicing physical distancing and with an already extended safer-at-home directive set to expire on May 15, county Department of Public Health officials have warned the general public of the consequences of reopening or easing safety measures too soon. 

California: Here’s why Los Angeles County plans in-person voting during coronavirus crisis while Riverside, Orange went all-mail | Ryan Carter/Los Angeles Daily News

On May 12, Los Angeles County voters will decide who replaces former Rep. Katie Hill for her remaining term in Congress. Despite countywide “stay at home” orders spurred by the coronavirus outbreak, nine polling places will be available for residents to register and cast their ballots in person. Meanwhile, Riverside County plans its own May 12 special election in the 28th Senate District, but it will be mail-only with no in-person balloting. And Orange County will stage a May 19 City Council recall election in Santa Ana. Initially, the registrar positioned it as a mostly mail vote. But since then, citing “risks to public health,” the Board of Supervisors decreed a mail-only election, canceling early in-person voting options that were set to begin on May 9. All three elections were decreed under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 20 executive order. Newsom’s office acknowledges the pandemic risk at polling stations and required that mail-in ballots be sent to all registered voters. But he also “authorized and encouraged” elections officials to give voters in-person options, if they can be made safe.