As California moves to a new normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the November election change to become vote-by-mail only.
This new way of voting will change the strategy the candidates had planned as they will have to find new ways to approach the voters and earn their support. Going door to door meeting voters personally might be limited to this election and will force candidates to adapt to the new normal.
Recognizing the threat COVID-19 continues to pose to public health, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to ensure that Californians can exercise their right to vote in a safe and accessible manner during the General Election this November. The order requires that each county’s elections officials send vote-by-mail ballots for November 3, 2020, General Election to all registered voters. Californians who may need access to in-person voting opportunities – including individuals with disabilities, individuals who speak languages other than English, individuals experiencing homelessness, and others – will still be able to access in-person voting opportunities.
“Elections and the right to vote are foundational to our democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote. Mail-in ballots aren’t a perfect solution for every person, and I look forward to our public health experts and the Secretary of State’s and the Legislature’s continued partnership to create safer in-person opportunities for Californians who aren’t able to vote by mail.”
The Administration will continue to work with the Legislature and the Secretary of State to determine how requirements for in-person voting opportunities and other details of the November election will be implemented while preserving public health and giving county elections officials needed flexibility.
“California will not force voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. I thank Governor Newsom for taking decisive action now, to preserve voting rights and provide sufficient time to properly prepare for the General Election,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “Today we become the first state in the nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by mailing every registered voter a ballot. We are meeting our obligation to provide an accessible, secure, and safe election this November. Sending every registered voter, a ballot by mail is smart policy and absolutely the right thing to do during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
In response to this measure, the Republican National Committee and other groups have filed a lawsuit against California to stop the state from mailing absentee ballots to all voters ahead of the 2020 general election, a move that was made in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“California’s election system is already burdened with serious issues. The disastrous Motor Voter program arbitrarily changed voter registration for thousands casting doubt on the integrity and accuracy of our voter rolls,” California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said.
Fresh out of a March primary election, the November election will be crucial as it will be a Presidential election.
“Based on the new guidelines established by the State of California, we are currently developing a plan to provide vote-by-mail capabilities in addition to consolidated polling places that will provide the opportunity to vote in person should a person desire to,” said Imperial County Public Information Officer Lindsay Dale in an e-mail sent to Beyond Borders Gazette on May 20.
This fall there will be elections for city council, school board, and Imperial Irrigation District as well as assembly and congressional races.
Erik Ortega is an incumbent at the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors and is running in a runoff election in November seeking a Second Term.
“I support voting by mail, particularly during this pandemic. Absentee voting already makes up a large percentage, if not a majority, of the votes cast in California, so it makes sense to expand it in the 2020 election cycle.” Ortega said. “I support every voter being able to vote and for every vote being counted. If the state and our Elections Department can make it easier, and safer, for people to vote in November, then I am all for it,”
Ortega said this will present some challenges for candidates and campaigns, but they will adapt, just as voters will, he said.
“In California, where we have been doing absentee voting for decades, it isn’t that revolutionary of an idea, in my opinion,” Ortega said.
J.B. Hamby was the top vote-getter in his division race and will move to the runoff election for IID.
“It is disappointing to miss out on engaging with the community in person for some time, however, a silver lining is that more Imperial Valley voters than ever before will have the opportunity to vote within reach with mail-in ballots,” Hamby said.
Hamby said ballots in the mail will allow more people to register their desired future for the valley without the burden of heading to the polls and risking infection.
Hamby is hopeful these measures will not only protect the health and safety of voters but boost voter turnout to historic levels.
“The issues at IID will affect the lives of the people of Imperial Valley arguably more than the issues in Washington D.C., and it is vital that every Valley voter exercises their right to vote safely with a mail-in ballot. The stakes could not be higher,” Hamby said.