Advocacy Groups Across the State Applaud the Legislature’s Call for Newsom to Provide Election Protections

May 6, 2020

CONTACT: Jennifer Molina || 213.537.6324

SACRAMENTO – Today, a coalition of advocacy, labor, immigration, women’s health, youth and environmental organizations applauded the legislative Elections Committee Chairs call for Governor Gavin Newsom to issue an Executive Order that will set up critical protections across the state to ensure the safety of all voters. The state-wide coalition consists of nearly a dozen organizations. As California continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the coalition requests Governor Newsom provide clear direction on the steps counties should take to ensure all voters—regardless of zip code or racial identity - have the ability to vote safely in the upcoming November 2020 election.

“One thing is clear – communities across our state are excited to vote in the upcoming general election and we must take steps to ensure that a public health crisis does not impede the functioning of our democracy. No Californian should have to choose between protecting their health or voting,” said Mary Creasman CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “We thank the State Legislature for showing leadership in creating a list of clear guidelines for the Governor to follow. Democracy is crucial now more than ever and an Executive Order from the Governor that will strengthen vote by mail and in-person voting guidelines is critical. Communities hit first and worst by the pandemic are the same ones who will face issues when voting this November. We must protect their rights.”

"SEIU members believe that democracy works best when every voice has an equal chance to be heard and every Californian has easy, safe access to our voting process. Whether you are white, black, brown, API; whether you speak English, Spanish, Tagalog, Armenian, or any other language; whether you are a renter or a homeowner or homeless - every single one of us must have the ability to cast a ballot easily and safely. Sending every California voter a ballot is only one part of the solution for a safe and fair election. Every California voter should have access to a safe place to vote, without fear of overcrowding or long lines. Reducing the number of voting centers is counterproductive to our public health goals. It puts at risk the very voters who are more likely to need additional support - including first- time voters, those with language or accessibility needs, and renters who have recently moved. We appreciate the legislature’s commitment to protecting and preserving our most precious and fundamental right: the right to take part in our democracy. By reaffirming California’s commitment to providing ample in-person voting opportunities, we will ensure a full, fair, and equitable election,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU California and SEIU Local 721.

"California Calls thanks the Legislative Election Committee Chairs, Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman, for taking this important first step during this public health crisis to ensure our democracy works for all of us, not a select few," said Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls. "While expanding vote-by-mail to every California voter is important, ensuring that there are robust, in-person voting options is just as, if not more, important to ensuring that traditionally underrepresented voters have access to the ballot box. We now call on the rest of the Legislature to work closely with advocates, community-based organizations, and counties to ensure they have the resources to execute a robust public education campaign that reaches every eligible California voter. We also call on county election officials to go beyond these principles to ensure all voters in their counties have safe and simple access to cast their ballots in November.”

“We have an opportunity to reimagine a democratic process that centers both public health and safeguarding the right to vote of our most vulnerable populations,” said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness. “So many of our protections start at the ballot box by having a say on who gets to represent us. We have to get this right, not only for our democracy right now, but for the generations that follow that need us to be bold and visionary in our response to this crisis. We thank Senator Umberg, and Assemblymember Berman for taking the first steps for ensuring an equitable election for all Californians.”

“This crisis makes us ask more deeply who gets represented and who gets to participate. The time is now to envision a more responsive government and expanded democracy that represents all of us,” said Luis Sanchez, Executive Director of Power California. “This November, whether you are a first-time voter, do not have an address to receive a ballot, need any kind of in-person language or physical assistance, need to register to vote on the same day or need a replacement ballot — your vote should count! The Elections Committee seven point plan is an important step in ensuring safe and accessible voting options in California. An executive order and legislative package with these points reflected is how we protect our democratic process and ensure the voices of young people and the most disenfranchised are heard."

"Sending every California voter a ballot is only one part of the solution for a safe and fair election. Every California voter should have access to a safe place to vote, without fear of overcrowding or long lines. We appreciate the legislature recognizing that in-person voting is not only a must, but must be a level that ensures every community in California has access," said Art Pulaski, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

“On behalf of NARAL’s 265,000 members statewide, we are grateful for the leadership that Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman continue to demonstrate to guarantee that the November election is accessible to all Californians,” said Shannon Hovis, Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. “The connection between reproductive freedom and protecting our right to vote is clear. Eighty-four percent of Californians support access to legal abortion and 80% of voters surveyed in California say reproductive rights are important to how they vote. Truly accessible elections are essential to ensure that Californians can elect leaders who share our values and can be counted on to safeguard each person’s freedom to make our own decisions about our families and futures.”

“The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) applauds actions that lead to every California voter receiving a vote-by-mail ballot while still having robust in-person options. Diversifying how communities of color, who are often excluded, access the voting process must be priority. Limited access would be a disservice to our state’s work towards ensuring voting is safe and accessible for all voters,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director.

“CEJA is an Alliance of grassroots organizations living and working in urban, suburban, rural and unincorporated communities that are experiencing diverse barriers to voting during this pandemic. By ensuring every California voter is able to vote by mail, drop off their ballot, and utilize in person voting locations appropriately resourced for staff and voter safety, we have an opportunity to prioritize voters who historically have been disenfranchised by language, physical ability, age, race, income level, digital and information divide, geography, and housing security who are currently being hurt first and worst by the COVID-19 crisis," said Mabel Tsang, Civic Engagement Manager of California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We applaud Assemblymember Berman and Senator Umberg's leadership to unite the legislature to bring forward their legislative package for a pathway for millions of Californians to cast their ballot and recognize the needs of a growing force of engaged voters who want to take their own future into their hands and make their voices heard by voting this November."

“We are grateful for the Election Committee Chairs for leading when it comes to ensuring that every California voters rights are protected this upcoming November election," said Lea-Ann Tratten Political Director for the Consumer Attorneys of California. “California is a leader when it comes to expanding access to voting and we should lean into that even further in the middle of a crisis”

“IE United thanks the Legislative Elections Committee Chairs for showing bold leadership during these trying times,” said Michael Gomez Daly, Executive Director of Inland Empire United. “COVID-19 has taken a toll on our communities and local economies. We need to make sure it does not have the same effect on our democracy. We have seen what a vote-by-mail only election would look like in the May special election - dismal turnout and disenfranchisement of voters, particularly highly mobile voters of color. We urge the Legislature to expand on the Executive Order released by Governor Newsom and ensure voters have options in how they participate in our elections. This means expanding in-person voting locations while ensuring workers and voters are safe and expanding ballot drop off locations across the Inland Empire. We hope that local county officials will use these principles as a base for minimum requirements in November, not a ceiling.”

“As the most blue, and most diverse state in the country, California must model for the country what true democracy looks like in this moment. As legislators representing a state with a majority of people of color, we appreciate Assemblymember Berman and Senator Umberg's leadership to ensure all communities eligible to vote have a ballot and are informed on how to cast it from home or safely in-person if need be. We ask the rest of the California legislature and other elected leaders to follow their lead and define what progressive democracy means during this crisis,” said Tim Molina, Sr. Political Strategist for the California Donor Table.

“Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman have proposed important principles for safeguarding the November election. Voting by mail will play a crucial role in protecting Californians’ right to vote, but it can’t do the job alone. The state must ensure that voters who need to vote in person have enough safe polling places to cast their ballots without risking their health. By offering both options for all, California can be a national leader in protecting our democracy from the coronavirus,” said Raúl Macías Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, coalition groups submitted over a dozen recommendation letters to Secretary of State Padilla and the Governor, calling for enhancements to the November General Election - such as the widespread use mail-in ballots, expanded public education and outreach, and the increase, not reduction of in-person voting locations. With the pandemic disproportionately affecting communities of color, groups called for quick implementation of voter protections to give time for officials to address barriers that may arise in the process. Black, Indigenous and communities of color, low-income voters, voters with disabilities, young voters, and housing insecure voters have all been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are most at risk of disenfranchisement.

In calling for the November election to be safe, fair, and inclusive of all voters the following groups are joining forces: Black Women for Wellness, California Calls, California Donor Table, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, CHIRLA, Consumer Attorneys of California, Inland Empire United, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Power California and SEIU.