(Sacramento, CA) – Today, Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D – Orange County), Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting, announced legislation to protect public health and voting rights amid concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic before the 2020 General Election.
In a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman expressed their concern over short- and long-term impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the November 2020 election. In their letter, they announced their legislative package to protect public health while safeguarding important and long-held voting rights. Namely, the letter and the accompanying legislation stipulate that the state must send a mail ballot to every registered voter, and that in-person voting options continue to be accessible to voters. Expanded access to vote-by-mail is a critical component of any plan to address the crisis, but California must also make every effort to continue to offer meaningful access to in-person voting polling locations that are safe and sanitary for poll workers and voters alike. The letter also calls on the Governor to issue an executive order to require that all voters be mailed a ballot for the November election. Such an order will signal to counties that they should begin procurement of equipment and materials to allow for every registered voter in California to receive a mail ballot until that requirement can be formalized through the adoption of legislation. (The letter to the Governor has been attached to this press release)
Senate Bill 423 (SB 423) by Senator Umberg would require county elections officials to establish and maintain a minimum number of polling places and vote centers for the statewide general election to be held on November 3, 2020. Safe and accessible polling places are critical in ensuring voter rights are protected for all Californians. For many voters, the services they need to vote privately and independently are available at polling sites
“Voters will need safe and healthy in-person voting options this November,” said Senator Umberg. “While it is critical that voters in California are afforded every opportunity to receive a mail ballot, there still must be reliably sanitary, in-person voting locations available to provide access to valuable services like Election-Day registration, language assistance with ballots, disability assistance with voting, and more.”
Assembly Bill 860 (AB 860), by Assemblymember Berman would require that every registered California voter receive a vote by mail ballot for this November’s presidential general election. In-person voting opportunities would remain available for voters in a manner that is consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of voters and election workers.
“No Californian should have to choose between protecting their health and safety and participating in our democracy, particularly when doing so can be easily avoided,” said Assemblymember Berman. “AB 860 strikes the appropriate balance between allowing Californians to vote from the safety of their own homes, and ensuring that those who wish to vote in person still have the ability to do so.”
Advocacy groups from across the state applauded the call for a comprehensive plan for safe and fair election. In calling for the November election to be safe, fair, and inclusive of all voters, the following groups are joining forces: Black Women for Wellness, Brennan Center for Justice, California Calls, California Donor Table, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, CHIRLA, Consumer Attorneys of California, Inland Empire United, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Power California and SEIU. A press release from these advocacy groups can be found here.
Senator Thomas J. Umberg represents the 34th Senate District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Orange, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, and Westminster. Umberg is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, former federal prosecutor, and small businessman. He and his wife, Brigadier General Robin Umberg, USA (ret.), live in Orange County. Senator Umberg’s official headshot can be found here.
Assemblymember Marc Berman represents the 24th Assembly District, which includes southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Website of Assemblymember Marc Berman: www.assembly.ca.gov/Berman. Assemblymember Marc Berman’s official headshot is available here.