Answering Questions About Vote-By-Mail In California Amid COVID-19, Attacks By Trump

By Chris Nichols ,
June 2, 2020


Voting by mail isn’t new in California. It’s been allowed for anyone who’s registered, and for any reason, since 1979, according to the California Voter Foundation. 

But with fears that casting a ballot in-person could be risky this fall amid COVID-19, plus President Donald Trump’s misleading claims that mail-in voting “will lead to massive fraud and abuse,” there’s a spotlight on this decades-old practice.

California and many other states are getting ready for a surge of absentee voting. In May, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all counties to send mail-in ballots to all active registered voters in the state. 

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GOP groups filed a lawsuit to halt the order, saying it invites theft and cheating and that only the Legislature, not Newsom, has the power to change election laws. State lawmakers have proposed a similar law. 

What Safeguards Are In Place For Vote-By-Mail Ballots? 

The biggest protection in California is the signature matching requirement. A voter must sign the outside of their ballot’s envelope. That signature is then matched with the voter’s signature on file from when they registered to vote.  

Each vote-by-mail ballot also comes with “an identification envelope that is unique to that voter,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which advocates for voters and improving the election process. 

“It has a barcode on it for that voter. It has the voter’s address and information on it,” said Alexander, explaining that voters must use that envelope to return their ballot. “That’s how the county is going to do two things: Number one, make sure you only vote one time. Number two, make sure they can verify the validity of your ballot without opening it because you have the right to cast a secret ballot.”

Can I Track The Status Of My Vote-By-Mail Ballot? 

Yes, voters in many parts of the state can. The Secretary of State’s Office offers the ‘Where’s My Ballot?’ tracking service. Voters can track and receive notifications on each step of the process from when the ballot has been delivered to you to when the completed ballot has been received by your county. 

The following counties participate: Amador, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Los Angeles, Marin, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sutter, Tehama, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, Yuba. (Full Story)