California lawmakers sign off on mail-in ballots as signatures to recall Newsom soar

California’s Democrat-controlled legislature passed a bill Tuesday that requires all current, active registered voters to be sent a ballot by mail even if they never asked for one ahead of a potential recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Lawmakers claimed the bill is necessary in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which was their justification for passing a similar bill last year ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The legislation comes as the effort to recall Newsom, also a Democrat, garnered the required 1.5 million signatures to put the issue on the ballot this year. Recall officials have said they want to continue gathering more signatures for the time being, however, to ensure a sufficient cushion ahead of a March 17 deadline. 

“We’re not there yet. We wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the milestone along the way. But our job is not done. We’re working as hard as today as we were yesterday, and we’re going to work harder tomorrow,” Recall Gavin 2020 spokesman Randy Economy told Fox News earlier this week.

Voters will be asked two questions: “Do they want to recall Newsom, yes or no? And, if more than 50% of voters say ‘yes,’ who should replace him?” Economy said. If the 50 percent threshold is met, then the person with the most votes to replace Newsom will become governor.

Local journalist Bill Melugin reported that signatures to recall Newsom surpassed the needed 1.5 million and are on track to reach two million.

As lawmakers debated the bill on Tuesday, there was no mention of the potential recall of Newsom. Rather, Assemblyman Marc Berman said the legislation “recognizes that the pandemic has not gone away.”

The virus “continues to threaten the health and safety of all Californians,” Berman added.

There are already two scheduled votes this year in California, the Associated Press reported. Both of them are to fill vacancies in the legislature.

Some state lawmakers are balking at the expected cost of mailing ballots to every active voter, including Assemblyman Steven Choi, an Irvine Republican. He suggested that ballots only be sent to voters who request one by mail, otherwise the state will spend a lot of money on printed ballots that won’t be needed.

“That’s a lot of waste for those who choose to vote directly in person,” he said, according to the AP.

Nearly 18 million people voted in the 2020 general election in the Golden State, with 86.7 percent choosing to do so by mail-in ballot.

The bill passed Tuesday only applies to elections held this year. It now heads to Newsom’s desk.

Some state lawmakers were excited about the number of Californians who took part in elections via mail last year and have suggested making the option permanent. But critics of the scheme say mail-in balloting is ripe for fraud.

One of them is Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), who said he did not have Newsom’s potential recall in mind in December when he introduced the current universal mail-in legislation. He told the AP he believes it is better because it increased voter participation.

“Democrats lost four seats (in Congress) this past election and we had the highest voter turnout since 1952,” Umberg said. “I think more people voting, irrespective of what happened to Democrats, is a good thing for democracy.”

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Jon Dougherty

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