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Every California voter would get a mail ballot if Newsom signs this bill

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 9/5/2021 By Alexei Koseff

SACRAMENTO — Every voter in California would receive a mail ballot in all future elections if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill sent to him Friday by the state Legislature.

AB37 by Assembly Member Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, would require county election officials to send a mail ballot to every active registered voter, even in local elections, permanently adopting a system that California established as a safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic. It would also extend the time after election day that mail ballots can arrive and still be counted — to seven days from three days — as long as they are postmarked by election day.

“The bill will be evaluated on its merits when it reaches the Governor’s desk,” Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Newsom, said in a statement.

California elections have been overwhelmingly conducted by mail for years. More than three-quarters of registered voters last year were signed up for permanent vote-by-mail, according to a legislative bill analysis, while 15 counties, including San Mateo, Santa Clara and Napa, already mail every active registered voter a ballot and three counties hold their elections entirely by mail.

But the issue has become intensely partisan, with Democrats pushing to expand the process to make it easier to vote and Republicans accusing them of overlooking clear problems, such as some voters reporting that they received multiple ballots. The bill passed 30-7 in the state Senate and 56-15 in the Assembly last week, with only Democrats in favor and only Republicans opposed.

During the Senate floor debate on Thursday, Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield who has supported claims that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, said mailing every California voter a ballot would create distrust in the voting system.

“Sending unsolicited ballots will create an influx in the number of ballots, will increase opportunities for fraud and undermine the integrity of our elections,” she said.

Democratic lawmakers countered that numerous studies have found no evidence of widespread fraud from mail voting.

“The only reason that there is distrust by anyone in our voting system is because of the unfounded false conspiracy theories that are being spread on social media, on Fox News and other right-wing outlets,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

Alexei Koseff is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: alexei.koseff@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @akoseff

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