California to adopt all-mail voting

California will become the sixth state to conduct its elections entirely by mail after Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed new legislation codifying a temporary practice adopted during the coronavirus pandemic.

The change is unlikely to have a substantial impact in a state where most voters already cast their ballots by mail. But supporters of all-mail elections say proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout. 

California mailed ballots to every registered voter in 2020 and in elections conducted in 2021, including a recall that targeted Newsom.

“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election,” Newsom said in a statement.

California will join Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii in conducting elections entirely through the post. 

More than 17.5 million Californians cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential contest, representing 68.5 percent of registered voters. That put the Golden State near the middle of states when it comes to turnout. Colorado, Washington and Oregon were among the seven states with the highest turnout rates last year. 

Hawaii, where only 57.5 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, has been a turnout laggard in recent years. Turnout rates were lower in only two other states, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Newsom on Monday signed 10 other measures changing election and campaign procedures. One bill would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses. A third increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.

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