Gonzalez Fletcher moves to make postage for mail ballots free for voters

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SACRAMENTO – As California’s elections become more dependent on mail-ballot voting, State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher introduced Assembly Bill 216 today to make it easier for voters to cast their ballot through the mail by paying the postage for returned mail ballots in statewide elections.

Since 2012, more than 50 percent of all ballots in the state have been cast through the U.S. mail, with more than 57 percent of the voters who participated in the recent November 2016 election having used a mail ballot to vote. Currently, one or more postage stamps are required by the U.S. Postal Service to have a voter’s ballot delivered to a county elections office to be counted.

AB 216 will provide simple relief for voters as the use of mail ballots is expected to increase even more in the coming decade. A 2016 state law (Senate Bill 450) authorizes the state to begin  to allowing counties to conduct their elections through a process that includes the distribution of a mail ballot to every single registered voter. While the new law, which will become effective in some parts of the state beginning in 2018, allows voters to either walk their ballot to a drop-off location or vote in-person, it’s expected that many more voters will opt to return their completed ballot through the mail.

The increased use of mail ballots means including postage will become, at the very least, a nuisance for voters who rarely have stamps on hand because they’ve turned to e-mail and the internet to pay their bills instead of U.S. mail.

Gonzalez Fletcher and the 16 other legislators who have signed on as joint authors or co-authors say the state should do everything it can to make it easier for Californians to vote in elections.

“While some states have recently gone to great lengths to keep people from voting, we want to show that California is committed to taking away every barrier preventing people from casting a vote,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Several other legislators have signed on to lead the effort to advance AB 216, including Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) as joint author, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) as principal co-author, and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), Sharon Quirk Silva (D-Fullerton), Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), and Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) as co-authors.

AB 216 is the latest effort by Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher to legislate against barriers to voting. She authored AB 1873 (2014) to allow San Diego County to reform its special elections to allow for early voting and postage-paid mail ballots and AB 1461 (2015) – also known as the California New Motor Voter Act – to automate voter registration when voting-eligible obtain or renew their driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles. She served as Assembly Principal Co-author for the aforementioned SB 450 (2016).