California lawmaker scrambles to fix bill to make it clear ballots won't go to phantom voters

Friday, June 5, 2020

John Wildermuth
San Francisco Chronicle

June 4, 2020

A Bay Area assemblyman will revise his bill requiring that mail ballots be sent to every California voter this fall after concerns arose that the current version could cause more problems than it would solve.

The measure, AB860 by Democrat Marc Berman of Palo Alto, now states that those ballots would go to every registered voter in the state. That appears to mean not only the 20.6 million active voters, but also the huge but unknown number of inactive voters who might not even exist.


But on Tuesday, Democrats on the state Senate elections committee voted down a proposed amendment by state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, that would have required local election officials to send ballots only to active voters.

“If the Democrats are intent on expanding vote-by-mail to all voters, we must also enact protections so the possibility of fraud is reduced,” Nielsen said in a statement.

But Berman also said he has recognized in the past couple of days that the current version of his bill brings problems of its own.

The new wording about inactive voters might not be the only change coming to Berman’s bill. The measure now calls for expanding the deadline for mail ballots to arrive and be counted from the current three days after the election to 20 days post-election, and even as long as “two days before the (county) elections official sends the (secretary of state) the final results,” whichever is later. That could be as late as December.

Since those ballots still would have to be postmarked by election day, the change probably wouldn’t bring a flood of additional late votes. But many county election officials are unhappy with any prospect of an added workload.

“We’re getting different pushback from different registrars,” Berman said. “We’re going to look at the possibility of making a change to give more breathing room to the registrars.”

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