CSAC Bulletin Article

Governor Signs SB 423, Allowing Changes to November Election Procedures

August 13, 2020

Late last week, Governor Newsom signed SB 423 (Umberg) into law, making a number of changes specific to this year’s November 3 General Election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the new law codifies Executive Order N-67-20, which was signed by the Governor in June of this year. All provisions of this bill apply only to the November 2020 election and will be repealed as of January 1, 2021.

AB 860 (Berman), passed into law earlier this year, requires counties to mail ballots to all registered voters, with the hope that doing so will reduce the number who show up to vote in person, therefore limiting large groups at polling locations.

Under SB 423, counties that do not participate in the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) may reduce the number of polling places must have at least one polling place per 10,000 registered voters, recognizing that fewer polling places will be needed due to the increase in voting by mail. Counties that do so, as well as VCA counties will be required to have these vote centers open for at least 8 hours a day from Saturday, October 31, through Monday, November 2, and must be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Election Day, as polling places are for normal elections.

In addition, these counties must have one ballot drop-off location per 15,000 voters (with a minimum of two locations for smaller counties). The drop-off locations must be  accessible 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. At least one polling place or drop-off location per county must open in the 28 days leading up to the election where voters can also register to vote, or update their registration, and receive a provisional or replacement ballot.

SB 423 also includes several notable provisions that were not included in the Executive Order. Counties will be able to request from the Secretary of State adjustments or waivers to the minimally required number, location, or operational duration, of vote centers, consolidated polling places, or ballot drop-off locations. Before this request can be submitted a county must publicly notice their plan for at least 10 days. The Secretary of State will also have a designated “strike team” to assist counties in acquiring voting locations, enforcing state election laws, and establishing guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment. Finally, counties will be permitted to open a polling place in a location whose primary purpose is the sale of alcohol.

Poll Worker Recruitment

In recognition of the fact that a large share of poll workers are often in the age group most at risk of complications if they contract COVID-19, the Secretary of State this week launched a statewide poll worker recruitment effort. The SOS will host a consolidated web page where all Californians can sign up to be a poll worker.

COVID-19 Election Funding

In June of this year two budget bills were passed by the California Legislature which included funding to counties specifically to address COVID-19 related costs in the November 2020 election, some of it provided through the federal CARES Act. At the end of July the Secretary of State’s office released their allocation table outlining how much funding each county will receive.

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