Grassroots and Advocacy Organizations Respond to Executive Order by Governor Newsom Laying Out General Election Protections

Press Release
June 3, 2020

CONTACT: Jennifer Molina |[email protected] | 213.537.6324

Executive Order Follows the introduction of AB 860 and SB 423, Ongoing Efforts by Advocacy Groups to Prioritize Voter Access and the Safety of Voters Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

SACRAMENTO – Today, a coalition of advocacy, labor, immigration, women’s health, youth, democracy rights and environmental organizations committed to protecting access to vote safely, celebrates Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order to secure voting access under the COVID-19 pandemic to communities historically disenfranchised. During a time when the convergence of three historic crises -- COVID-19, the resulting economic recession/depression, and the mass movement against racist police violence and power abuses -- has hit communities of color the most, it is important, now more than ever, that we uphold and bolster authentic democracy in our state and be a model for the rest of the country.

The communities who have suffered the worst impacts of COVID-19 are the same neighborhoods in which racism and white supremacy has had the deepest repercussions. By protecting the right to vote, Californians will be able to exercise their decision-making power to transform violence against Black and Indigenous people of color, low income, queer and gender-expansive people impacted from overcriminalization and poverty, to bring forward resources for our families, strengthen our schools and social safety nets, and create public accountability. Governor Newsom’s Executive Order is a significant step towards reaching this goal for the November Election by requiring safe and equitable access to universal mail and in-person voting options.

The Executive Order follows the introduction of Senate Bill 423 by Sen.Umberg (D-Orange County), and the passage of Assembly Bill 860 introduced by Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) through the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee. These two bills layout critical protections to ensure that voting will be safe, secure, and accessible this November. We call on the state legislature to swiftly pass the legislation and fully fund in-person vote locations, universal vote by mail, and the robust voter education program outlined in AB 860 and SB 423.

“To protect our democracy, our state must address the racial injustice and systematic inequality that hurts Black communities, especially in the middle of a pandemic which has disproportionately impacted the lives of black and brown families. Thank you, Governor Newsom, for taking action to protect in person voting. Today’s action comes after weeks of advocacy efforts by coalition groups and the leadership of Senator Umberg and Assemblymember Berman. This is a great step forward and we look forward to continuing to advocate for a fair and just election leading up to November," said Melissa Romero Legislative Affairs Manager for the California League of Conservation Voters

“Protecting our democracy means ensuring every voter and every voice must count this November and we commend Governor Newsom’s action to affirm California’s commitment to a safe and inclusive vote. His executive order implements the in-person access and safety standards outlined by legislative Elections Committee Chairs Sen. Umberg and Asm. Berman. We thank these leaders who have worked tirelessly to develop a comprehensive model approach in their SB 423 and AB 260. The Governor’s action comes at a time when we are seeing more clearly how systemic racism tears at our social fabric and targets Black communities for institutionalized violence. At the same time, COVID-19 has exposed the unacceptable and deadly consequences of racial disparities in access to healthcare and job quality. Governor Newsom’s action is an important step to ensuring that these injustices are not mirrored and amplified in our election process - where the voters most at risk from COVID-19 become those forced into long lines at the voting booth," said Joseph Bryant, President of SEIU Local 1021 and Executive Board Member of SEIU California.

"We applaud Governor Newsom for issuing an Executive Order that advances democracy this November, particularly for those who have been traditionally underrepresented and marginalized and are most deeply impacted by the pandemic. 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. We now call on election officials across the state to go beyond the Executive Order to ensure all voters have safe and simple access to cast their ballots in November. We also call on the Legislature to ensure that there is sufficient funding in the state’s budget to conduct a robust voter education and outreach campaign so that California voters are informed about their options to cast a ballot for the November Election," said Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls.

“Governor Newsom’s leadership provides needed guidance for counties to prepare for November. The legislative action to follow is a model for the rest of the country, expanding voting options, ensuring points of access and providing for public education, the three pillars to a safe and secure 2020 election,” said Michael Latner, voting rights fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists and Professor of Political Science, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“Whether it is the economic crisis, the disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 of folks of color, or ways in which systemic racism is killing Black bodies, 2020 has made it crystal clear, who represents us is deeply important to our communities’ ability to live a life with dignity. It is essential that all voters have a voice in choosing who represents our values at all levels of elected office,” said Janette Robinson Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness. “We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for boldly taking the steps needed to ensure that all California voters have access to the ballot.”

“Amid such a pivotal reckoning in our nation’s history, the importance of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order cannot be overstated. Not only have communities of color been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, but Black and Brown voters also continue to be systematically disenfranchised in states across the country. As one of the most racially-diverse states in the U.S., California has both an opportunity and a moral responsibility to set a national standard for ensuring that the voices -- and votes -- of people of color are heard and counted in the 2020 election. We applaud Governor Newsom for taking this critical first step for balancing the scales of justice in California and protecting the fundamental freedoms of our most vulnerable communities,” said Shannon Hovis, Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

“We applaud Gavin Newsom for his leadership by issuing an Executive Order that protects the right to vote for Californians. It is another commitment to Californians to exercise their decision-making power to transform historical and long-standing violence to resources, opportunity and accountability. The Executive Order will strengthen mandates for every California voter to receive information in their preferred language and providing the opportunity to vote by mail or in-person, so voters who are disenfranchised from voting and hurt the worst during the pandemic will have a the resources to ensure that their voices will be heard this November,” said Mabel Tsang, Civic Engagement Manager of California Environmental Justice Alliance.

“The Inland Empire is grateful for Governor Newsom's leadership. The pandemic has been catastrophic to many communities here in the Inland Region, especially communities of color. This is a great first step in ensuring protection of our democracy and freedom to participate in elections,” said Michael Gomez Daly, Executive Director of Inland Empire United.

“We thank Governor Newsom’s progressive leadership to make California the most safe and inclusive voting state in the nation. We hope other states and the nation will follow our lead in order to protect our democracy, especially for our most disenfranchised communities, during this historic time,” said Tim Molina, Sr. Political Strategist for the California Donor Table.

“If one barrier to voting exists -- that is one barrier too many. It is leadership’s duty to ensure that every Californian can be safely heard on election day. Today’s Executive Order enacted by the governor brings our state closer to being able to provide all Californians with access to safe voting,” said Angela Chavez, Communications Director for Courage California. “But while it's encouraging to see that California leaders are taking the right steps to ensure that this pandemic doesn’t result in further voter disenfranchisement, the work is not done. We must continue to be vigilant and pressure our state leaders to take every measure possible to make our elections truly equitable and inclusive. That is the only way we will ever reach a representative democracy -- a democracy that has the ability to lead all Californians out of the many crises that have our communities outraged today.”

“The Governor’s order today is an important step towards ensuring Californians can vote safely and securely in November, whether they are voting by mail or in-person. The legislature must now act swiftly to safeguard the election by further strengthening protections for voters and providing the resources needed to run the election and conduct significant public education. California can demonstrate to the nation a way forward for protecting voters, especially historically disenfranchised communities, during this pandemic,” said Raúl Macías, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Today’s Executive Order follows a previous order signed by the governor on May 8, 2020, which required each county election official to send vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3, 2020 General Election to all registered voters, stated the intent to continue to work with the Legislature and Secretary of State to determine how requirements for in-person voting will be implemented, and set the deadline of May 30th for final decisions on requirements for in-person voting. Following the initial order, the coalition has been working with the state legislature to provide feedback and suggestions on protecting access to voting and people’s right to vote safely.

The coalition that is fighting to ensure the November election is 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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