Executive Order and Bills Addressing November Election
June 4, 2020
This week, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-67-20, which provides guidance for county election officials with regards to the November 3, 2020 General Election, and clarifies that EO N-64-20, which directed vote-by-mail ballots be sent to all California voters, does not apply to inactive voters.
Counties will not be required to have more than one polling place per 10,000 registered voters for the 2020 General Election (counties operating under the vote center model will retain their existing requirements). However, to take advantage of the lessened requirement for precincts, these counties will need to have polling places available for at least 8 hours a day from Saturday, October 31 through Election Day, for a total of four days, and the polling places must be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Election Day, as they are for normal elections.
In addition, these counties must have at least one vote-by-mail drop-off location per 15,000 voters beginning at 9 a.m. on October 6 and running through Election Day, with at least one location fully accessible for at least 12 hours each day. Counties that are subject to the Voter’s Choice Act will not be required to have polling places available before October 31, however they are encouraged to do so.
The order also requires all county elections officials to use the Secretary of State’s vote-by-mail ballot tracking system, and suspends any requirements for county elections officials to hold in-person public meetings in preparation for the November 2020 election, as long as draft plans are made available on the county website and public comments are accepted for at least 10 days.
These requirements, both to mail all voters ballots and provide vote centers and drop boxes, will increase the cost of administering the November election. The CARES Act provides California with $36 million to fund exactly these kinds of changes, which the Senate has proposed passing along to counties. The legislative agreement on a budget framework, released earlier tonight, would provide an additional $35 million. These allocations would not fully cover county costs, but would close more than half of the estimated gap.
There are currently several bills in the Legislature addressing this year’s election, including AB 860 (Berman) and SB 423 (Umberg). AB 860 would largely codify the Governor’s Executive Order requiring county elections officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for this year’s election. SB 423 would authorize counties that are not under the Voter’s Choice Act to not have vote centers open before the 3rd day prior to the November 2020 election, along with other provisions.