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California makes universal mail-in voting permanent: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bill requiring a ballot be sent to every registered voter

 California on Monday became the eighth, and by far the largest, U.S. state to make universal distribution of vote-by-mail ballots permanent, a practice that became more widespread during the pandemic.

The measure requiring mail-in ballots to be routinely sent to every active registered voter from now on was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday night.

Its enactment in one of the nation's most heavily Democratic states, and the most populous, contrasted sharply with a wave of new voting requirements passed this year by Republican-controlled legislatures in Texas and the battleground states of Georgia, Florida and Arizona.

California has the largest number of registered voters in the country, has more than several other states combined and has voted for a Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992.

In 2020, 63.5 percent of the state's voters backed Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump in the White House.  More than 86 percent were cast using mail-in ballots.

Republicans advocating such restrictions have cited a need for tighter election security to stamp out alleged fraud that Trump has claimed without evidence cost him the November election. 

California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement: 'The California Republican Party is committed to ensuring elections are safe, fair and secure, giving voters the confidence they need to cast a ballot.

'It’s no secret that Democrats have and will continue to try to manipulate election regulations for their political advantage. Republicans will hold them accountable through our election integrity operations – including litigation, where appropriate – and by recruiting and supporting candidates who will provide solutions to California’s numerous challenges.' 

Trump and others in his party have falsely singled out mail-in ballots, in particular, as being somehow vulnerable to tampering.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have countered that those claims are unsubstantiated and that enhancing voter convenience through ballots that can be delivered by mail or at 'drop-box' collection sites only expands voter participation.

California has the largest number of registered voters in the country, has more than several other states combined and has voted for a Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992
California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said: 'It’s no secret that Democrats have and will continue to try to manipulate election regulations for their political advantage'

California has the largest number of registered voters in the country, has more than several other states combined and has voted for a Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992


'When voters get a ballot in the mail, they vote,' California legislator Marc Berman, chief author of the vote-by-mail bill, said in a statement. 'We saw this in the 2020 general election when, in the middle of a global health pandemic, we had the highest voter turnout in California since Harry Truman was president.'

'Voters like having options for returning their ballot whether by mail, at a secure drop box, a voting center or at a traditional polling station. And the more people who participate in elections, the stronger our democracy and the more we have assurance that elections reflect the will of the people of California,' California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a Democrat, said in a statement. 


Voters in California still have the option of casting their ballots at polling stations on Election Day if they prefer. 

The state's electorate as grown since laws were passed enabling automatic registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and allowing residents to register up to election day. 

California was one of four states - along with Nevada, Vermont and Utah - to embrace universal mail-in ballots during the 2020 election cycle as an alternative to in-person voting in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Like Utah, California had already begun allowing mail-in voting on a county-by-county basis pre-pandemic but expanded it to all voters in 2020. 

The practice was extended statewide temporarily through 2021, including the recent gubernatorial recall election.

By the Saturday before the election, a third of registered voters had cast their ballots after 22 million residents had them sent through the mail and 75% were cast remotely.

The bill Newsom signed on Monday makes California the eighth state - along with Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii - to make that arrangement permanent, according to the election reform advocacy group RepresentUs.

Utah is among a handful of states where Republican-majority legislatures have passed measures making it easier, not harder, to vote. 

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