California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday signed an executive order permitting all registered voters in the Golden State to vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election, citing concerns stemming from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“I signed an executive order that will allow every registered voter in California to receive a mail-in ballot,” Newsom said. “That mail-in ballot is important but it’s not an exclusive substitute to physical locations.”
“People that are otherwise not familiar with mail-in ballots, are uncomfortable with them, may have disabilities, may have other issues that may preclude that as an appropriate option, we still want to have the appropriate number of physical sites for people to vote as well,” the governor added.
Newsom said while offering voters the chance to vote by mail, he is committed to providing the ability to vote at a physical location on election day.
“There’s a lot of concern and excitement around this November’s election in terms of making sure that you can conduct yourself in a safe way and to make sure your health is protected and to make sure we are reaching out to all registered, eligible voters,” the governor stated. “And giving them the opportunity, giving them the choice not to feel like they have to go into a concentrated, dense environment where their health may be at risk but provide an additional asset and additional resources by way of voting by mail.”
In a statement to CNN, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh slammed the move by Newsom, calling it a “thinly-veiled political tactic” to “undermine” election security.
Newsom’s order comes as Democrats across the country are pushing efforts to allow voters to vote-by-mail in the 2020 election, despite concerns of potential voter fraud. On Wednesday, Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) went as far as to call for vote-by-mail to be permitted beyond the election.
“If we don’t act fast, we will jeopardize participation in what may be the most important election of our lifetime. People will stay home. Disproportionately, those people will be of color, who live in neighborhoods most likely to lose polling locations,” the Democrat lawmakers wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “They’ll be students, single parents, and low-wage workers, who can’t put their lives on hold to go vote. They’ll be seniors and medically-vulnerable patients, who would be literally risking their lives just to cast their ballots. So a privileged few will get to decide our country’s trajectory while the people most impacted by this crisis are forced to forfeit their voice.”
Recent data has not shown a compelling public health justification for vote-by-mail. Wisconsin is one of the only U.S. states that held its primary election with in-person voting after the coronavirus lockdown began. Only a few dozen people at maximum were confirmed to have contracted the virus after participating either as voters or poll workers, and none of those cases were fatal. Out of the 413,000 participants, that equals an infection rate below two-hundredths of one percent. Just days later, South Korea held national elections which did not result in any new coronavirus cases.