Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Friday to mail a ballot to every registered voter in California ahead of the November general election.
With public health experts across the country predicting a second major wave of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the run-up to the election, Newsom said he signed the order to ensure that California residents don't have to risk contracting the virus to vote.
Voting locations will still be available to accommodate those who may not be able to vote by mail, such as people with disabilities, people who speak a language other than English or people who are homeless, Newsom said.
"Elections and the right to vote are foundational to our democracy," Newsom said. "No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote."
Voting rights advocates lauded the announcement from Newsom and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla but called on state officials and legislators to also expand polling place access as much as possible.
"It is imperative that the legislature work closely with counties and community-based organizations to ensure they have the resources to execute a robust public education campaign that reaches every eligible California voter," said Anthony Thigpenn, president of the voting advocacy group California Calls.
Newsom and Padilla said they plan to work with officials at the county level across the state to establish in-person voting standards for the election. Newsom could issue a subsequent executive order later this year if those standards are not agreed upon by May 30.
Voters can check and affirm their registration status by visiting voterstatus.sos.ca.gov. Voters will not be required to pay for postage as mail ballot postage is prepaid in California.
"There's no safer, physically distancing, healthier way to exercise your right to vote than from the safety and convenience of your own home," Padilla said.