Sep 30, 2016 (SACRAMENTO) A bill by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) allowing voters to designate a person of their own choosing to return a completed mail ballot to the proper drop-off location or post office was signed into law by the Governor today.
AB 1921 will give voters the ability to choose any person to return their mail ballot and make their voices heard. To ensure that the changes implemented by this bill address potential voter-fraud concerns, individual canvassers and volunteers are prohibited from engaging in any sort of compensation systems in which pay or performance is based on the number of ballots deposited or collected by that person.
“This is yet another step to make it easier for Californians to vote,” Gonzalez said. “By allowing voters to allow another person to return their ballot, we remove an unnecessary barrier to participation for many voters who may have disabilities or travel challenges that would otherwise prevent their vote from being counted.”
Mail ballots have increased dramatically in popularity and provide essential access to voters with disabilities, or who are traveling on Election Day. However, out of more than 9 million mail ballots issued in the 2014 general election, only about half were actually returned. Currently, California is one of only a few states that explicitly prohibit volunteers or paid canvassers from collecting ballots from voters, while states like Arizona, Texas, Oregon and Washington allow anyone to return completed ballots on behalf of a voter.
California has enacted several measures recently to make it easier for citizens to cast a mail ballot. In 2014, SB 29 allowed mail ballots to be counted if they were postmarked on or before Election Day and were received up to three days later, and several California counties are moving towards all mail ballot elections in pilot projects approved by the legislature.
Gonzalez previously authored AB 1873 in 2014 to create a pilot program for primarily mail ballot special elections in San Diego County, and AB 1461, the California New Motor Voter Program, in 2015 to modernize and streamline the voter registration process for millions of eligible California voters through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Supporters of AB 1921 include Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the California Labor Federation, Disability Rights California, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.