Gov. Newsom issues a second Nov. 2020 election executive order; AB 860 advances to the Assembly

By Kim Alexander,
June 12, 2020

Hi Folks,

This edition of CVF-News provides an update on California's planning for November's 2020 Presidential election.

The basic plan that has developed is to mail everyone a ballot and give counties the option of consolidating polling places if they also provide three additional days of early voting and drop boxes. The first half of the plan - mailing everyone a ballot - was expressed in Gov. Gavin Newsom's May 8th Executive Order and would be codified by AB 860 if it is enacted into law.

The second half of the plan - allowing counties to consolidate polling places if they also provide three additional days of early voting and drop boxes - was expressed in a second executive order Gov. Newsom issued on June 3 and would be codified by SB 423 if that bill is enacted into law.

There was some confusion when the second order was initially released as to whether the consolidation/early voting plan was optional or required. News releases issued by the Governor's office and Secretary of State Alex Padilla were updated to accurately reflect the permissive, not mandatory nature of this order. Subsequent guidance to counties issued by the Secretary of State (called "CCROVs") provide further details on how to implement this plan if they choose to do so. While there are 40 counties that could utilize this alternative approach it's unclear at this point how many counties will opt to do so. The June 3rd order also permits Voters Choice Act counties to provide only three days of early voting rather than ten as normally required by law.

The new order also clarifies that the Governor's May 8th order directing counties to mail registered voters vote-by-mail ballots requires that ballots only be sent to active, not inactive voters. The claim that ballots would go to inactive voters is one of the reasons why this order has been challenged in court. Those challenges are still pending.

Yesterday, the Senate passed AB 860, which codifies the Governor's May 8th EO and also was amended to clarify that ballots would not be mailed out to inactive voters. That bill is now back in the Assembly where it is scheduled to be heard by the Elections and Redistricting Committee on June 16th at 10 am. SB 423 has not yet been set for hearing. While CVF is overall supportive of this strategy, we did send a letter along with Verified Voting to lawmakers expressing concerns about putting even greater reliance on voting-related technology and the risks and challenges that could result.

Meanwhile, a new legal challenge was filed yesterday by two Republican legislators claiming Governor Newsom has overstepped his authority with his executive orders. This morning a Sutter County judge decided in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered a stay of the new order.

To learn more about these lawsuits and read the Governor's response to the judge's decision, check out Ben Christopher's story in today's CalMatters.

-- Kim Alexander, President & Founder, California Voter Foundation