Thursday Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a new bill that would open November polls early in an attempt to reduce the amount of people at polling places.
Senate Bill No. 423 will provide a one-time alternative procedure to the statewide general election that would consolidate polling locations in return for remaining polling places to open three days early on October 31st.
The bill stated its goal was, “To preserve public health in the face of the threat of COVID-19, and to ensure that the November election is accessible, secure, and safe, all Californians will be empowered to vote by mail, from the safety of their own homes,” and to uphold Governor Newsom’s statewide vote-by-mail Executive Order issued on May 8, 2020.
Due to the urgency of the public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus, the law will take immediate effect. The bill will also require election officials to conduct a voter education and outreach campaign, urge counties to provide drive-through ballot drop-off or voting locations, and authorize election officials to establish vote centers, polling places, or consolidated polling places.
From October 31, 2020, through Monday, November 2, 2020, each polling place will be required to be open for at least eight hours, and on the day of the election, the consolidated polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The bill also stipulates that a minimum of two ballot drop-off locations shall exist within the county or “at least one ballot drop-off location for every 15,000 registered voters, whichever results in more ballot drop-off locations.” At least one of these drop-off locations must be on the exterior of a building and operate for at least 12 hours a day, though counties are encouraged to maximize the number of exterior drop boxes for safety reasons related to COVID-19. These external polling drop boxes will be required to operate for 28 days before the general election.
That state will continue to support in-person voting for those who have disabilities, speak languages other than English, individuals experiencing homelessness, those who never received their vote-by-mail ballot, lost or damaged their ballot, or need to register to vote, as well as others who may find vote-by-mail less accessible than in-person voting.
Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in that voting in person could be safe if we treat it with the care we have been operating our business under.
“We see a big X, and then six feet away is another big X,” Fauci told the Washington Post. “I don’t see any reason why, if people maintain that type of physical distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands — why you cannot, at least where I vote, go to a place and vote.”
Regardless Newsom and other California lawmakers say they, “Owe these Californians safe in-person voting opportunities this November,” and are implementing many measures to ensure that voters will have the option to vote-by-mail or in person.