Virtual Conference: Responding to This Moment in Elections
One of the more astounding Executive Orders issued by Governor Gavin Newsom lately has been N-64-20, enabling all California voters to vote-by-mail in the Nov. 3 election! To deliver on this huge mandate, state and local election officials are literally working around the clock to finish their plans for voting-by-mail by May 30 with details to follow, according to speakers at the annual Future of California Elections (FOCE) conference May 14 headlined by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Although the vast majority of Californians will vote by mail and, hopefully, in even greater numbers than in 2018, the key word in the Executive Order is “enabling”, meaning that those who opt for traditional voting in person in polling places will still have this older option. Hence, speakers like Neal Kelly, Registrar of Voters for Orange County working with law enforcement and the ACLU, Fred Nisen, an attorney representing disabled voters, James Woodson of California Calls’ Voting Rights Act manager and Mindy Romero of the CA Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California were among those seeking to accommodate “in-person” voters who tend to be “infrequent” voters, an especially diverse group in California.
However, voting by mail remains the best option to cover all bases for two main reasons: it has been shown to boost turnout and various, currently unknown degrees of social distancing could still be necessary by Nov. 3. The need for fewer, larger polling places suited to social distancing and for fewer poll workers – generally elderly folks most susceptible to the coronavirus – would make vote-by-mail easier to organize.
Finally, looming larger than ever in this COVID-19 era will be the cost of converting rapidly to vote-by-mail. Closing the meeting, US Elections Assistance Commission Chairman Ben Hovland with a 20-year career in elections administration, including the 2018 Help America Vote Act and recent CARES Act providing CA with $36 million to cover pandemic needs, urged all to leave no ballot uncast!
–Ruby MacDonald, President LWVBAE
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