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Following L.A. County's Lead, State Will Send Mail Ballots to All CA Voters

Reporter Roundup is a collaboration between PBS SoCal/KCET and KPCC/LAist to bring you the biggest headlines M-F about COVID-19. Watch the May 7 episode here.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Echoing a move taken last week by Los Angeles County, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order today calling for every registered voter in the state to receive a mail-in ballot for the November presidential election.

"There's a lot of concern and anxiety around this November's election in terms of making sure that you can conduct yourself in a safe way and to make sure your health is protected," Newsom said.

He said providing all voters with a mail-in ballot will give them "the choice not to feel like they have to go into a concentrated, dense environment where their health may be at risk" due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom said the mail-in ballots will not be a substitute for physical voting locations, which will still be offered. He said the executive order he signed Friday also calls for the development of a plan by the end of the month on the locations of voting sites for the election.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the move makes California "the first state in the nation to respond to COVID-19 by taking this action of sending every voter a ballot in the mail in advance of the November election."

"I think that's huge," he said. "There is no safer, physically distancing, healthier way to exercise your right to vote than from the safety and convenience of your own home." He noted that in California, sending in a vote-by-mail ballot does not require postage.

"It's great for our public health. It's great for voting rights. It's going to be great for participation, because this November's election is slated to be the most consequential election of our lifetime."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week agreed to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters in the county for the election.

"It is hard to imagine that, amid the coronavirus crisis, we have a major election coming up this November," Supervisor Janice Hahn said at the time. "No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We don't know what challenges we will be facing in this pandemic this fall, but by sending every voter a mail-in-ballot we can ensure that everyone can cast their ballot safely, no matter what the future holds."

President Donald Trump has expressed opposition to vote-by-mail balloting, citing what he calls a large potential for fraud.

Michael Ahrens, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, called Newsom's action problematic.

"While we have always supported absentee voting, California is a case study in why automatically sending this many ballots is a problem," Ahrens said. "Just last year, a court found that L.A. County had 1.5 million ineligible voters on their registration lists, meaning there were 112% more registered voters than adults living in the county. We are weighing our legal options to ensure the integrity of the election."

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