California becomes eighth state to implement universal, automatic mail-in voting

On Sept. 27, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB37 into law, making California the eighth state to provide for universal, automatic mail-in voting in all future elections. Under the law as enacted, local election officials must automatically deliver mail-in ballots to all registered voters. In addition, AB37 modified the mail-in ballot return deadline: ballots are considered timely cast if voted on or before Election Day and, when delivered by mail, received by election officials no later than seven days after Election Day (previously, the receipt deadline for ballots returned by mail was three days after Election Day). The law does not preclude voters from choosing instead to cast their ballots in person.

On Sept. 2, 2021, the California State Senate approved the final version of AB37 by a vote of 30-7. On September 3, 2021, the California State Assembly followed suit, voting 60-17 in favor of the bill.

In response to the bill’s signing, Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) said, “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.” Meanwhile, California GOP 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. 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.”

Seven other states have implemented permanent all-mail voting systems: Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.

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