California’s Modernized Election System Increases Access to the Ballot

Opportunity for further improvement remains for many voters, including young voters

Los Angeles, CA – As polls close on Election Day, the ballot counting process is fully underway in California. Though final election results won’t be known for days, or even weeks, California voters can celebrate the completion of what has proven to be one of the most accessible elections in the state’s history thanks to the last decade of voting and election advocacy and reforms that have removed barriers to voting. 

“We applaud California election officials and our nonpartisan election protection coalition partners for working seamlessly together to help all Californians exercise their right to vote,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause. “New voting laws are allowing us to meet voters exactly where they’re at, making our election process more inclusive and accessible than ever before.”

California voters no longer have to navigate outdated infrastructure or burdensome voting restrictions when they are ready to cast their ballots. Prior to the voting period, every county in California mails ballots directly to all eligible voters. Voters then have the opportunity to make their voices heard by mailing back their ballots, dropping off their mail ballots to drop boxes or vote centers, voting early in person, or by voting in person at a vote center on Election Day. Additionally, in-person voting sites offer same-day voter registration, guaranteeing access for a number of voters and eliminating the vast majority of provisional ballot problems.

These new election reforms are the product of many years of advocacy and implementation work by California Common Cause and its many partners. By 2022, many of the implementation issues of these pro-voter reforms were ironed out by election administrators.

“Californians’ passion for our democracy is evident in every election, and this year’s midterm election was no different,” said Alesandra Lozano, voting rights and redistricting program manager for California Common Cause. “Despite some hiccups on Election Day, voting in California has never been easier, and now California must invest in robust voter education and outreach efforts to ensure that our electorate matches the demographics of our large and diverse state.”

As always, California Common Cause has been assisting voters, monitoring problems, and identifying systemic issues that need to be addressed by state leaders throughout the voting period. This year, our Election Protection Program deployed hundreds of our nonpartisan volunteers throughout eight counties in the lower Central Valley and Southern California.

While many Californians were able to cast their ballots free of barriers, the final outcome of the reforms implemented through a decade of advocacy remain to be seen. California has deep voter participation disparities on the basis of race and age. While voting reforms like the Voters Choice Act and same-day voter registration have reduced barriers to the ballot, it is not clear whether these reforms will close the voter turnout gaps that are leaving voters of color and young voters behind.

Additionally, California Common Cause and its volunteer poll monitors saw widespread challenges for student voters emerge on college campuses on Election Day, throughout the state. Increasing lines and long wait times were reported towards the end of Election Day at UC San Diego, San Diego State University, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UCLA. To prevent this kind of issue from happening again in the next election cycle, resources should be allocated, by county elections offices and the Secretary of State, to assist new voters and student voters who cast their ballots on college campuses. 

By meeting voters where they’re at and building an easily accessible elections system, California has the power to show the nation what a truly inclusive democracy looks like.

See More: Voting & Elections