Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Bills to Strengthen California’s Elections

Governor signs 17 bills into law to expand voting access and improve the integrity of California’s elections 

Governor signs SB 72 to create same-day voter registration opportunities at every polling place in the state

Governor signs AB 571 to create campaign contribution limits at the local level

Governor signs SB 47 and AB 201 to improve transparency and require greater disclosure of funders on petitions and campaign text messages

Governor’s action builds on $87.3 million in the state budget to upgrade and replace aging voting systems

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today signed a series of bills aimed at expanding access to early and same-day voting, increasing civic engagement and improving transparency in campaign finance and redistricting.

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “It is critical that we expand access to the ballot box for all eligible voters, while strengthening the integrity of our elections. The package of bills I’m signing today represent a forward-looking, responsible approach to improving elections in California.”

In the November 2018 election, nearly 12.7 million Californians cast their ballot – the highest voter turnout in a midterm election in 36 years.

These bills build on the 2019-20 state budget, which includes $87.3 million one-time funding for upgrading and replacing voting systems and technology in all 58 counties. This investment will support counties in their effort to replace voting systems and strengthen the security of California’s election infrastructure. In addition, the budget includes $2.7 million ongoing funding to support the Secretary of State’s continued efforts in identifying and mitigating cybersecurity risks associated with voting and other sensitive information technology systems.

Expanding access at the ballot box

  • SB 72 by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) requires conditional voter registration and provisional voting to be available at all county elections satellite offices and polling places.
  • AB 49 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) ensures people have more time with their ballots by requiring county elections officials to begin mailing vote by mail ballots no later than 29 days before Election Day and complete the mailings within five days.
  • SB 523 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) aligns the timeline for notices and the submission of an unsigned vote by mail ballot envelope with the deadlines established for mismatching signatures to give voters more flexibility to correct their signatures.
  • AB 1707 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) allows voters to use an electronic device at a polling place​. The bill will allow voters to access information on their phone, tablet or other handheld device while voting.

Campaign accountability

  • SB 47 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) helps voters make informed decisions by requiring initiative signature gatherers to disclose the top three funders of the committee organizing the campaign to voters before they sign to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
  • AB 201 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) requires a text message that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure to disclose the entity that paid for the text message, unless certain conditions are met and as specified.
  • AB 571 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) establishes default campaign contribution limits for county and city office and allows local governments to establish their own limits.
  • SB 71 by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) prohibits the expenditure of campaign funds and legal defense funds to pay or reimburse a candidate or elected officer for penalties, judgements, or settlements related to claims of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment.

Civic engagement

  • AB 59 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) requires county elections officials to consider placing a vote center on a university or college campus and allows public college and university buildings to be used as polling places or vote centers.
  • AB 963 by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) establishes the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act to be administered by the Secretary of State, which requires each campus of the California Community Colleges (CCCs) and the California State University (CSU), to provide students with civic and election dates and information, and designate one person per campus as a Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinator.
  • AB 1666 by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) requires the California Complete Count – Census 2020 to partner with local educational agencies to make information about the 2020 federal census available to students and parents.

Strengthening local elections

  • SB 359 by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) permits a municipal referendum petition to contain an impartial summary of the ordinance instead of the text of the ordinance itself.
  • SB 681 by Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) authorizes the proponent of a local referendum or charter amendment initiative to withdraw the measure prior to election.

Additional legislation

  • AB 849 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) reforms California’s local redistricting laws to improve criteria, transparency and public engagement to make sure the process is more fair and consistent.
  • AB 864 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) makes minor technical, and clarifying changes to the content and format of disclosure statements required to appear on campaign communications.
  • AB 1829 by the Committee on Elections and Redistricting makes minor, technical, and corresponding changes to the Elections Code.
  • SB 151 by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) permits an elected state official who is subject to a recall election to have their party preference identified on the recall ballot.

Previously, the Governor signed SB 641 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), which extends the timeline the Governor has to declare a special election to enable more special elections to be consolidated – saving taxpayer money and increasing voter turnout – as well as AB 220 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), which allows candidates to use campaign funds for child care expenses, which can encourage more parents to run for office.

In total, the Governor today announced signing the following election-related bills:

  • AB 49 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) – California Voter Protection Act of 2019.
  • AB 59 by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) – Elections: polling places: college and university campuses.
  • AB 201 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) – Political Reform Act of 1974: campaign disclosure: text messages.
  • AB 571 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) – Political Reform Act of 1974: contribution limits.
  • AB 849 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) – Elections: city and county redistricting.
  • AB 864 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) – Political Reform Act of 1974: disclosures.
  • AB 963 by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) – Public postsecondary education: Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act.
  • AB 1666 by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) – The California Complete Count: local educational agencies.
  • AB 1707 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) – Polling places: handheld devices.
  • AB 1829 by the Committee on Elections and Redistricting – Elections.
  • SB 47 by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) – Initiative, referendum, and recall petitions: disclosures.
  • SB 71 by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) – Political Reform Act of 1974: campaign expenditures: limitations.
  • SB 72 by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) – Conditional voter registration: provisional ballots.
  • SB 151 by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) – Elections.
  • SB 359 by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) – Elections: referendum.
  • SB 523 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) – Elections: vote by mail ballots.
  • SB 681 by Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) – Local referenda and charter amendments: withdrawal.