Support growing to mail all ballots in California elections

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Publication: Associated Press

When Henry Brown got his ballot in the mail last month, the 74-year-old California musician didn’t agonize over his decision. He filled it out and mailed it back on the same day.

“It’s more convenient, less stressful,” he said.

And it could soon become a permanent part of elections in the nation’s most populous state. This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, all of California’s more than 22 million registered voters got a ballot in the mail at least 29 days before Election Day along with a postage-paid envelope to send it back. 

Now, California’s Democratic leaders are weighing whether to make those changes permanent.

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But with more than 25 million eligible voters, mailing ballots in California is more expensive. The Department of Finance said it cost $65 million just to mail ballots to all of the voters this year who don’t normally receive one — about 5.6 million people.

The state could do that this year, in part, because it had millions of dollars in coronavirus aid form the federal government. The state budget included $111.6 million for the election, with more than half of that coming from the federal government. Most of that money won’t be available for future elections.

Local governments typically pay for elections, but they get reimbursed for things the state requires them to do. 

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Assemblyman Phil Ting, the Democratic chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said cost would be an issue. But he said mailing ballots could save money by resulting in fewer in-person polling locations and the people to staff them.