Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

California will mail ballots to all and count those arriving 17 days late

Harmeet Dhillon

Harmeet Dhillon, one of the state's Republican National Committee members, says a new law's extension for postal delays creates "a lot of opportunity for mischief."

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Griffiths is the editor of Independent Voter News.

Ballots will be delivered to every registered, active California voter this fall under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The measure assures everyone in the nation's most populous state will be able to vote by mail in the presidential contest. It's the biggest single expansion so far of this alternative for the general election, when a surge of interest in absentee balloting nationwide seems guaranteed as a result of the coronavirus.

The bill also assures the outcome of close contests won't be known until nearly Thanksgiving, because a provision mandates that envelopes postmarked by Election Day be tabulated if they arrive as long as 17 days later. No other state has that long a grace period to allow for slow postal service.


California's 55 electoral votes can be counted to go for Joe Biden, but President Trump will still have the opportunity to raise the state's unusually long delays in finalizing the returns if he decides to contest a close election nationwide. He has recently sowed doubt about the vote by amplifying his many unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud — which have included several unfounded allegations about California in recent weeks.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

More substantively, the new rule could create an exceptionally long wait time for final results of hotly contested ballot measures and races for congressional, state and local offices.

Passed overwhelmingly in the Democratic-majority Legislature with some GOP votes, the law closely mirrors a pair of executive orders the Democratic governor issued in the past month in the name of boosting turnout and keeping polling places healthy.

Republicans had challenged Newsom's actions as illegal executive overreach, but those lawsuits have now been rendered moot by the actions in Sacramento. Instead, the GOP is likely to focus its criticism on the newly lengthened extension for mailed votes.

Most voters in California are already registered permanent absentee, which means they automatically receive a ballot by mail for every primary and general election. Already this year, nearly 80 percent of active registered voters received a ballot by mail. The latest Public Policy Institute of California survey about attitudes toward state government found nearly three-quarters of likely voters support expanding mail-in options for November.

"No one should have to risk their health — and possibly their life — to exercise their constitutional right to vote," said Democratic state Rep. Marc Berman, author of the new law. "In the midst of a deadly health pandemic, giving all California voters the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home is the responsible thing to do."

The 17-day window, however, is being targeted by the GOP. One of the state's delegates to the Republican National Committee, Harmeet Dhillon, for instance, has labeled the expansion "bizarre" and said it could open the floodgates to legal challenges over ballot signatures, raising integrity issues and dragging some races out for weeks.

"There is a lot of opportunity for mischief," she said. "There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty."

Much of the concern is over a practice colloquially known as ballot harvesting. A state law enacted in 2016 makes it legal for anyone, paid political operative included, to collect and turn in mail-in ballots on behalf of voters. Democrats organized to take advantage of the liberalized rules and their collection efforts helped flip several Orange County congressional seats from red to blue in the 2018 midterm.

Democratic state Rep. Lorena Gonzales, an author of the law, said the change was simply meant to offer a public service, and that the rules prior to the bill's passage "provided yet another obstacle for individuals attempting to vote."

Those who object to the practice, however, say there is little protection against coercion, either by a family member or by a campaign collecting the ballots.

Last-minute ballot submissions slowed the count in several races in 2018, and bolstered a massive Democratic get-out-the-vote effort in several races. However, there is no evidence of widespread fraud. Republicans are reportedly working to improve their own on-the-ground ballot collection operation for this November.

Many states have adopted measures to increase the use of mail-in voting in 2020, and some have already conducted all-mail elections with little problem. Nonpartisan reformers who support increased use of vote-at-home methods point to these elections as evidence that claims of widespread fraud under vote-by-mail are largely unfounded.

The biggest cast of voting fraud in recent years, forcing the do-over last year of a tainted congressional contest, centered on Republican misbehavior. Testimony after the 2018 election described how GOP political consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. paid workers to collect ballots and return them to him, promising to then mail the ballots himself. Such ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina.

Visit IVN.us for more coverage from Independent Voter News.

Read More

Trump and Biden at the debate

Our political dysfunction was on display during the debate in the simple fact of the binary choice on stage: Trump vs Biden.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The debate, the political duopoly and the future of American democracy

Johnson is the executive director of the Election Reformers Network, a national nonpartisan organization advancing common-sense reforms to protect elections from polarization.

The talk is all about President Joe Biden’s recent debate performance, whether he’ll be replaced at the top of the ticket and what it all means for the very concerning likelihood of another Trump presidency. These are critical questions.

But Donald Trump is also a symptom of broader dysfunction in our political system. That dysfunction has two key sources: a toxic polarization that elevates cultural warfare over policymaking, and a set of rules that protects the major parties from competition and allows them too much control over elections. These rules entrench the major-party duopoly and preclude the emergence of any alternative political leadership, giving polarization in this country its increasingly existential character.

Keep ReadingShow less
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Voters should be able to take the measure of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., since he is poised to win millions of votes in November.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images

Kennedy should have been in the debate – and states need ranked voting

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

CNN’s presidential debate coincided with a fresh batch of swing-state snapshots that make one thing perfectly clear: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be a longshot to be our 47th president and faces his own controversies, yet the 10 percent he’s often achieving in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and other battlegrounds could easily tilt the presidency.

Why did CNN keep him out with impossible-to-meet requirements? The performances, mistruths and misstatements by Joe Biden and Donald Trump would have shocked Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, who managed to debate seven times without any discussion of golf handicaps — a subject better fit for a “Grumpy Old Men” outtake than one of the year’s two scheduled debates.

Keep ReadingShow less
I Voted stickers

Veterans for All Voters advocates for election reforms that enable more people to participate in primaries.

BackyardProduction/Getty Images

Veterans are working to make democracy more representative

Proctor, a Navy veteran, is a volunteer with Veterans for All Voters.

Imagine this: A general election with no negative campaigning and four or five viable candidates (regardless of party affiliation) competing based on their own personal ideas and actions — not simply their level of obstruction or how well they demonize their opponents. In this reformed election process, the candidate with the best ideas and the broadest appeal will win. The result: The exhausted majority will finally be well-represented again.

Keep ReadingShow less
Person voting at a dropbox in Washington, D.C.

A bill moving through Congress would only allow U.S. citizens to vote in D.C. municipal eletions.

Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

The battle over noncitizen voting in America's capital

Rogers is the “data wrangler” at BillTrack50. He previously worked on policy in several government departments.

Should you be allowed to vote if you aren’t an American citizen? Or according to the adage ‘No taxation without representation’, if you pay taxes should you get to choose the representatives who help spend those tax dollars? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over a bill to restrict voting to U.S. citizens.

Keep ReadingShow less
people walking through a polling place

Election workers monitor a little-used polling place in Sandy Springs, Ga., during the state's 2022 primary.

Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

What November election? Half of the U.S. House is already decided.

Troiano is the executive director ofUnite America, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in nonpartisan election reform to foster a more representative and functional government. He’s also the author of “The Primary Solution.”

Last month, Americans were treated to an embarrassing spectacle: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) tradingpersonal insults related to “fake eyelashes” and a “bleach blonde bad built butch body” during a late-night committee hearing. Some likened it to Bravo’s “Real Housewives” reality TV series, and wondered how it was possible that elected officials could act that way and still be elected to Congress by the voters.

The truth is, the vast majority of us don’t actually elect our House members — not even close. Less than 10 percent of voters in Crockett’s district participated in her 2024 Democratic primary, which all but guaranteed her re-election in the safe blue district. Greene ran unopposed in her GOP primary — meaning she was re-elected without needing to win a single vote. The nearly 600,000 voters in her overwhelmingly red district were denied any meaningful choice. Both contests were decided well before most voters participate in the general election.

Keep ReadingShow less