California Pushes Plans for Voting by Mail

Mail US Postal (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

California election officials Wednesday released plans for new legislation with the stated aim of “provid[ing] greater flexibility and convenience” for voters, including voting by mail, in the hope that the changes will boost voter turnout.

Officials cite Colorado as an example of similar, successful reforms. Critics warn of voter fraud and significant research indicating that measures such as early voting actually decrease voter turnout.

SB 450 proposes broad voting policies including, “mailing every voter a ballot, expanding early voting, and enabling voters to cast a ballot at any vote center within their county,” according to a statement out of the office of Secretary of State (SOS) Alex Padilla.

Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) are co-authors of the new State Senate bill. The San Diego Union Tribune noted that officials hope to implement the measures as early as 2018 should the bill pass this year.

“SB 450 would provide citizens more option for when, where and how they vote.  Providing more options will help more citizens vote, despite our often busy lives,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla proclaimed.

“We must fight to improve voter turnout in California,” Allen declared.

“Removing barriers to voting will empower more California citizens to participate in our democracy,” asserted Democrat Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) regarding the revised SB 450. The Union-Tribune noted that Gonzalez pushed for and achieved a similar measure in San Diego County.

Bill proponents cite Colorado as an example of how voter turnout can be increased while costs decrease. However, the SOS release focuses on the increased difference between California and Colorado, rather than the change for Colorado alone. which saw a much smaller rise between the 2010 midterm election and the comparable 2014 midterm election.

A March 2011 Colorado Secretary of State release also revealed that 11,805 individuals registered to vote in the state used non-citizen documents to obtain a state ID or Driver License. The Department of State believes at least most of these are “improperly registered to vote.”

In addition, significant research has revealed that implementation of early voting and vote by mail systems have sometimes decreased voter participation.

“Drawing on data from a large sample of California counties in two general elections, we find that voting by mail does not deliver on the promise of greater participation in general elections. In fact, voters who are assigned to vote by mail turn out at lower rates than those who are sent to a polling place,” stated a 2007 from the University of California San Diego.

In September 2013, Pew Research Center highlighted a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The data collected in the UW-Madison study led researchers to conclude that the sole addition of early voting is more accurately associated with a decrease in voter turnout.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana


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