Advocacy Groups Support Legislation Introduced by Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman to Protect Voter Access and Safety

Press Release
May 28, 2020

CONTACT: Jennifer Molina |[email protected] | 213.537.6324

SACRAMENTO – Today, a coalition of advocacy, labor, immigration, women’s health, youth, and environmental organizations encouraged the swift passage of Assembly Bill 860 and Senate Bill 423, introduced by Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D - Orange County), Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, and Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. The legislation will set critical protections in place to ensure the safety of all voters.

The protections in AB 860 and SB 423 include expanding access to remote accessible vote-by-mail and access to in-person assistance at in-person voting locations in a way that minimizes crowds by expanded early voting and expanded ballot drop box access

“Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman are leading by example by acting quickly to ensure no Californian is forced to choose between protecting their health or voting,” said Mary Creasman CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “We are 159 days away from Election Day, every day that counties across our state do not receive clear direction from our legislature and Governor, is one day less to prepare for the November election. AB 860 and SB 423 will safeguard our election and they must move forward – our democracy depends on it.”

“Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman have put together a crucial package to protect voters and our democracy. This is more important now than ever, especially for the frontline workers and communities of color most heavily affected by the pandemic. The disproportionate death rates for frontline workers and communities of color are a direct result of how we have chosen to structure our society: who has access to healthcare, good jobs, and clean air, and who doesn’t. If we want to change that, then those communities most affected must have robust access to our democratic process,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015 and SEIU California Executive Board Member.

"We applaud Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman for putting forth a proposal that advances democracy, particularly for those who have been traditionally underrepresented and marginalized, and are most deeply impacted by the pandemic. California leaders must work to shape a more expansive democracy, where people can vote by mail, vote early, or still cast their ballot safely in-person. Ensuring every voter has full access to participate in our democracy is critical to saving millions of people from this dangerous virus and economic insecurity," said Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls

“Just as our state leaders took bold and swift action to protect Californians from COVID-19, they must also act urgently to protect all Californians' ability to vote by providing a variety of safe voting options including in-person. AB 860 and SB 423 that includes early voting and expands ballot drop boxes are necessary to ensure Californians' right to vote and should be passed without pause. With swift action from our leaders, California can be a model for the nation on how to protect our democracy and ensure healthy, safe elections for all without exception,” said Luis Sanchez, Executive Director of Power California.

“Communities are experiencing diverse barriers to voting during this pandemic. AB 860 and SB 423 will strengthen mandates for every California voter to receive information in their preferred language, and provide the opportunity to vote by mail or in-person,” said Mabel Tsang, Civic Engagement Manager of California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We applaud Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman's leadership to prioritize historically disenfranchised voters, who are hurt first and worst by the COVID-19 crisis. We call on the Legislature and Governor Newsom to swiftly pass and fully fund this pathway for millions of Californians to cast their ballot."

"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 at a level that ensures every community in California has access," said Art Pulaski, the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

"It is critical that the November 2020 general election be conducted safely while at the same time protecting the nation-leading voting rights California stands for," said Andrea Zinder, President of UFCW 324 and the UFCW Western States Council. "The Legislative Democracy and Voter Protection Package will help California lead the nation in conducting elections with integrity and equity and ensuring each voter is able to use their voice to shape California’s future."

“CSEA supports AB 860 and SB 423 to codify fair access to both voting by mail and in-person voting. An inadequate number of polling places this November would increase the risk of long lines and crowds, thereby risking COVID-19 exposure for voters and creating inconsistency and confusion across the state. We cannot risk disenfranchising any voter by making in-person voting or ballot drop-off more difficult, nor can we allow one community to face more or fewer barriers to voting than another,” said Ben Valdepeña, President of the California School Employees Association.

"We applaud Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman for putting forward these critical pieces of legislation, and urge Governor Newsom to issue an Executive Order without delay. Having robust and safe access to voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, and today California is setting an example to the nation of how best to protect our right to vote while ensuring the safety of all of our communities," said Jeff Freitas, President of the California Federation of Teachers.

“Our democratic right to vote gives us the power to make things happen. Ensuring the safety of voters at the polls in addition to the opportunity to vote by mail gives each and every one of us the collective power to make it count. We’re calling on the Governor and legislature to support AB 860 and SB 423 to ensure fair and safe access to all voters,” said California Teachers Union President E. Toby Boyd.

“Californians need this legislation to protect their votes in November. By providing for safe and secure voting – whether by mail or in person – these bills will help ensure that eligible voters of this state can participate in our democracy with confidence, despite the pandemic.Having safe and secure voting by mail along with ample, safe in-person polling places is the winning combination for California. We can’t leave voters behind, especially historically underrepresented voters, and these bills will prevent those Californians from being needlessly disenfranchised,” said Raúl Macías, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

“Black Women for Wellness works in creating a space that Black women and girls can live full lives and thrive. Being able to participate in the democratic process is essential to creating that vision” said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness. "We applaud Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Marc Berman for introducing legislation that would protect both the health of our community as well as continue California’s leadership to make sure every voter will be able to cast a ballot.”

“We applaud state Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman for rising to this unprecedented moment and demonstrating true leadership with SB 423 and AB 860. This legislation is critical for ensuring our democracy facilitates participation for every Californian while also safeguarding public health. We’re proud that California can lead the nation and set the standard for conducting safe, accessible elections in the midst of a pandemic, and look forward to celebrating the swift passage of these bills,” said Shannon Hovis, Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

​​"Democracy must bloom in this critical election season despite the dark clouds of COVID-19," said Lea-Ann Tratten, Political Director at Consumer Attorneys of California. "Unlike some federal players pushing to suppress the vote and risk public health, we applaud Senator Umberg and Assembly Member Berman for encouraging a robust showing while ensuring voters remain safe during these pandemic times."

“With the General Election quickly approaching, we need the legislature to urgently pass SB 423 and AB 860 to ensure all Californians can safely cast their vote,” said Eddie Kurtz, President and Executive Director of Courage California. “We cannot afford to let the pandemic keep citizens from engaging in their civic duty and exercise their right to vote. The health risks are very real -- as is the need to elect the representatives who will lead us out of this crisis and into recovery. We applaud the leadership Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman displaced today by introducing SB 423 and AB 860 to address the issues COVID-19 presents to a safe and fair General Election. California representatives are leading the nation in developing a framework that is truly equitable and inclusive. We must get this right for all Californians -- and the nation.”

“The scientific community recognizes that a safe and healthy planet can only be secured through a safe and healthy democracy,” said Michael Latner, Senior Fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, and Professor of Political Science, California Polytechnic State University.

“Governor Newsom’s executive order to automatically send every California voter a main-in ballot was an unprecedented step forward to ensure a more safe and equitable election. We ask that he and the California legislature take the next big step to ensure every California voter has access to a safe and convenient way to vote in person if need be. We urge them to follow Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman’s lead to protect our democracy, particularly for the most disenfranchised communities who have also been most impacted by the pandemic. We must ensure every community in California has the information and access to vote safely in person or from their home," said Tim Molina, Sr. Political Strategist of the California Donor Table.

On May 8, 2020, Governor Newsom announced an Executive Order requiring each county election official to send vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3, 2020 General Election to all registered voters. Prior to the Executive Order, the coalition submitted over a dozen letters with recommendations to Secretary of State Padilla and the Governor, calling for enhancements to the November General Election - such as the widespread use of 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.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of weeks of the coalition working together with the legislature to provide feedback and suggestions on legislation. The coalition is fighting to ensure the November election are safe, fair, and inclusive of all voters consists of the following advocacy and grassroots groups: Black Women for Wellness, Brennan Center for Justice, California Calls, California Donor Table, California Environmental Justice Alliance, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Teachers Union, California League of Conservation Voters, California School Employees Association, Center for Community Action, CHIRLA, Consumer Attorneys of California, Courage California, Environmental Justice, Inland Empire United, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Power California, SEIU California, SEIU Local 2015, UFCW 324, and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy.

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