By Jed Ngalande
Student leaders of StanfordVotes and Stanford Democrats praised Governor Gavin Newsom’s approval of permanent mail-voting in future California elections, saying it will remove barriers to voting and increase turnout while maintaining election integrity.
On Sept. 27, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 37 (AB 37) into law, a bill designed to “extend the requirements to mail a ballot to every registered voter to all elections and apply them to all local elections officials.”
With Newsom’s authorization, state election officials will begin mailing ballots no later than twenty-nine days before every election to every registered voter. The reception of a mail-in-ballot will not encumber those who want to vote in person, according to the bill.
This new California law differs from those of states like Pennsylvania, where voters who receive mail-in ballots but choose to vote in person must actively void their mail-in ballot or vote by way of a provisional ballot subject to review.
Cameron Lange ’24, co-director of StanfordVotes, said she was excited when she first heard Newsom signed AB 37. The expanded access to vote-by-mail provided by the new law gives voters a sizable window during which they can cast their ballot at a time most convenient for them, she added. Lange believes that this policy will increase Stanford voter turnout.
“Stanford students and workers have notoriously hectic schedules that can make voting in person on election day really challenging,” Lange said. “A lot of students have jobs, they’re balancing a lot of classes and a lot of demands on their time. So I’m really hoping that the expanded access to vote by mail improves turnout. I imagine it will.”
Gabriella Garcia ’24, co-president of Stanford Democrats, said that Stanford students have a high election turnout as is. However, with permanent mail-in voting, “numbers should be the highest we have ever seen,” she said. For California at large, Garcia said permanent mail-in voting will strengthen election integrity and the democratic process.
“I was ecstatic to see that Governor Newsom made it permanent because it expands access to voting in a time where many states are looking to restrict voting,” Garcia said. “Governor Newsom made the right choice to provide simply another option to vote for people to be able to vote from home, and I believe that it will help in increasing turnout from underrepresented communities.”
Lange added that mail-in voting and other expansions to voter accessibility should be unifying points among citizens of a democracy. Garcia said she believes that this should be the case but currently feels that is not the reality. According to her, mail-in voting became a partisan issue because “Republicans felt threatened by the access to vote from Democratic constituents.” Republicans who protested the 2020 election demonstrated hypocrisy in how they reacted to the elections in Arizona and Georgia, she added.
“During the election, we saw how in Georgia they chanted ‘count those votes’ while in Arizona they would say ‘stop the count,’ showcasing the hypocrisy in making a voting option a partisan issue,” Garcia said.