California officials say the state will be ready for the November general election, despite the coronavirus pandemic. But questions remain about key issues, including whether groups pushing ballot measures will be able to collect signatures before the June deadline given current social distancing requirements.
It also remains unclear whether traditional polling places will be up and running by the fall, given concerns about the virus. In the March 3 primary election, 75 percent of registered voters in California received a vote-by-mail ballot — and Secretary of State Alex Padilla said he is confident that counties can expand that number to all voters by the fall.
Padilla said his office is working with counties to ensure that by November, anyone who wants a ballot in the mail gets one — and safe opportunities will be available for people to vote in person if they prefer.
Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation — a nonpartisan group dedicated to ensuring access to voting — said it’s true that California is in a good spot compared to many other states, given its commitment to voting access. But she noted that Los Angeles County saw big problems during the March primary, when it moved to a new voting system and eliminated hundreds of polling places in favor of voting centers, resulting in hours-long lines on Election Day.
“So there already was a discussion going on — and there is a discussion going on — among lawmakers, the secretary of state and the LA County Board of Supervisors about the feasibility of expanding vote-by-mail ballot distribution in Los Angeles County to all 5.5 million registered voters there,” she said.
And even if counties can get all voters a ballot in the mail, another challenge remains, noted Alexander: making sure voters know they have them.
“When voters don't connect with their ballots, they end up showing up at polling places on Election Day asking to vote, and then they're stuck voting with a provisional ballot. ... That creates a lot of unhappy voters because they don't want to cast provisional ballots and it makes more work for election officials,” she said. (full story and audio)