With Prop. 1 race in dead heat, Gavin Newsom, opponents urge voters to fix rejected ballots

By Lindsey Holden,
Sacramento Bee,
March 18, 2024


California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a group opposing the Proposition 1 ballot measure are both urging voters whose ballots may have been rejected to fix their signatures in the too-close-to-call race.

Californians Against Prop. 1 on Friday began drawing attention to a Newsom effort to recruit volunteers who could contact voters whose mail-in ballots are being challenged due to signature problems.

Proposition 1 would restructure California’s Mental Health Services Act and provide $6.4 billion in bond money to increase the number of treatment beds and housing for those dealing with mental illness and addiction. The ballot measure remains deadlocked, with 50.1% of votes in favor of the initiative and 49.9% against it as of Monday morning, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. About 20,000 votes separate the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sides.

California’s mail-in election system requires voters to sign the outside of the envelopes containing their ballots. If there are irregularities with the writing, or if envelopes are missing signatures, election workers flag the ballots and attempt to contact voters to “cure” or fix the problem.

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Californians Against Prop. 1 last week conceded the measure would “likely pass.” But the group on Monday again began rallying against the initiative, refashioning its website with information to help voters whose ballots may have signature issues.

“We believe all ballots should be counted,” said Paul Simmons, a director of Californians Against Prop. 1 in an email to supporters of the group. “We know that many Democrats voted against Prop. 1, so the governor’s effort is no slam dunk. If you’re a Republican or independent, we want you to know that your ballot might make the difference in this election. But the governor won’t help you. We will.”

Volunteer ballot-curing operations are legal and becoming more and more common in California’s vote-by-mail dominated election system, said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation.

Campaigns and certain qualified people can request information on voters whose ballots have been challenged, which they can cross-reference with their own data to target those who likely support their candidate or cause, Alexander said.

“He’s not getting any special treatment,” she said of the governor. “He’s just trying something that’s a new strategy.”

The contents of the ballot envelopes remain secret — supporters and opponents are simply trying to get signatures fixed based on assumptions about how people may have voted, Alexander said.

In this way, campaigns have begun to extend into the vote-counting process, she said. It’s a legal strategy, but it favors candidates and causes with more money that can afford voter data and can more easily mobilize volunteers.

“Campaigns are realizing this is an opportunity to make sure all the votes being cast for their side are being counted,” Alexander said. (Full Story)