CSAC Bulletin Article

Election Procedures Back in Legislative Spotlight

December 10, 2020

This week, Legislators began introducing bills for the 2021-22 session and they included a handful of elections-related bills. As county officials are aware, a number of changes were made to California election procedures this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Legislature is looking to extend those provisions beyond the confines of the current emergency.

SB 29 (Umberg) would extend the statute, codified by AB 860 (Berman), requiring that all registered voter receive mail-in ballots in 2020, until January 2022. While vaccine deployment may be on the horizon for California, this bill aims to apply COVID-19 precautions to protect any elections that will occur in 2021. Meanwhile, AB 37 (Berman) takes a longer term view by applying vote-by-mail procedures to all future elections.

Several other new bills unrelated to voting by mail would change other election procedures and rules. SB 35 (Umberg) would increase restrictions on electioneering at polling locations by extending the prohibited distance to 200 feet from 100 feet. Currently, SB 34 (Umberg) is only a “spot bill” containing placeholder text, however, it states the intention of the Legislature to increase penalties for operating unofficial polling places that falsely claim to be official.

AB 53 (Low) would establish the day of a statewide general election as a holiday. The bill would accomplish this without increasing the total number of state holidays by eliminating the observation of Washington Day (the third Monday in February) in even numbered years. AB 20 (Lee), also known as the Clean Money Act of 2021, would prohibit a candidate for elective office from receiving contributions from any business entity and states the intent of the Legislature to create a public financing system for elections.

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