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Legislature Votes to Make Recent Election Reforms Permanent

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO — Assembly Bill 37, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), cleared its final hurdle in the state Legislature today passing out of the Assembly on a 60-17 vote. The bill will make permanent several election reforms that were adopted and used for the November 2020 General Election, including automatically mailing every active registered voter a ballot and giving every voter the opportunity to track their ballot to ensure it is counted. AB 37 additionally would set minimum vote-by-mail ballot drop-off location requirements, ensuring that voters have convenient options for returning their ballots.

“When voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman, chair of the Assembly Elections Committee. “Last year we enacted critical emergency election reforms to protect the health and safety of voters and poll workers, and they worked tremendously well. We had the highest voter turnout in 70 years, and elections officials across California commented on how smoothly the process went. Now that we know this system works, let’s make these meaningful reforms permanent to make it easier for Californians to vote in future elections.”

In April 2020, Assemblymember Berman amended his Assembly Bill 860 to require that every active registered California voter receive a vote-by-mail ballot for the 2020 General Election. AB 860 also allowed counties to begin processing returned vote-by-mail ballots earlier, extended the deadline for receipt of vote-by-mail ballots, allowed voters to use remote accessible vote-by-mail systems, and ensured that all California voters had the ability to track their ballots as they moved through the mail system and were processed by elections officials (a system that was initially created by Berman’s AB 2218 in 2018). The bill was signed into law as an urgency measure in June 2020, and was a key part of the state’s preparations for conducting a safe and successful presidential election during the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, approximately 15 million Californians voted in the General Election using a ballot that was mailed to them, and more than 5 million Californians registered for ballot tracking.

These reforms were extended through the end of 2021 by Senate Bill 29 (Umberg).

If AB 37 is signed into law, California will become the sixth state to require active registered voters to be mailed a ballot before each election. Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Utah already do so.

Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024