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With California Gov. Gavin Newsom possibly facing a recall election later this year, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would require all active registered voters get a ballot in the mail at least 29 days before the election.

The bill, which now heads to Newsom’s desk, is similar to a law in effect for the 2020 general election that was designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by curtailing the number of people who voted in person.

The law does not prevent people from voting in person at polling places. But by sending everyone a ballot in the mail, it means fewer people are likely to vote in-person on Election Day.

Would Apply to Possible Newsom Recall Election

There are only two elections scheduled for 2021, both to fill vacancies in the state Legislature. But an effort to remove Newsom from office before his term ends next year has picked up steam in recent weeks.

Supporters of the recall election, who have cited their anger over how Newsom has handled the coronavirus pandemic, have until March 17 to gather about 1.5 million signatures. Organizers say they have already gathered more than 1.5 million signatures, but it’s not clear how many of those will be deemed valid.

If the recall election goes forward, the state could be on the hook for $7.6 million. That’s how much the California secretary of state’s office estimates it would cost to reimburse local election offices.

More than 17.7 million people voted in the 2020 general election in California, the most ever. Of those, 86.7% used a vote-by-mail ballot, or more than 21 percentage points higher than the previous presidential election in 2016.

‘Pandemic Has Not Gone Away’

Lawmakers did not mention the recall election during debate, with Assemblyman Marc Berman saying the bill “recognizes that the pandemic has not gone away.”

“It continues to threaten the health and safety of all Californians,” he said.

Assemblyman Steven Choi, a Republican from Irvine, said the state should only send a ballot to people in the mail if they ask for one. Otherwise, the state will print a lot of unnecessary ballots.

“That’s a lot of waste for those who choose to vote directly in person,” he said.

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