SACRAMENTO – As the state and nation prepare for Election 2020, a quartet of California Assemblymembers are working to ensure that one of voters’ most sacred rights is protected. Their specific efforts are aimed at residents who vote-by-mail with the Voter Protection Act.
Assembly Bill 17, known as the Voter Protection Act, was introduced by Assemblymembers Rudy Salas, D-42, and Lorena Gonzalez, D-80. Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia, D-56, and Juan Arambula, I-31 are co-authors.
Existing law requires a vote by mail ballot to be available to any registered voter. Existing law requires employers, as specified, to allow voters to take up to two hours off of work, without loss of pay, to vote.
The California Elections Code does not prohibit employers from requesting or requiring employees to bring their vote by mail ballot into work or vote their vote by mail ballot at work, according to a Face Sheet that Salas prepared.
The practice of requesting or requiring employees to bring their vote by mail ballots into work could place undue influence or pressure on employees, either explicitly or implicitly, to vote in a way that aligns with their employer, according to Salas. This undermines election integrity by interfering with a voter’s right to a free and unconstrained vote for a candidate or issue of their choice.
The Voter Protection Act would prohibit an employer from requiring or requesting that an employee bring his or her vote by mail ballot to work or vote his or her vote by mail ballot at work. The bill makes violation of this prohibition subject to a civil fine of up to $10,000 per election.
This bill is written to apply to all public agencies and private industry, which will ensure that voters have a workplace free from voter intimidation and suppression, according to Salas.
“AB 17 will further protect the rights of California voters and help uphold the integrity of our election process which is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Garcia told Uken Report.
Though there has been anecdotal evidence that this has happened in pockets of the state, according to the Secretary of State’s office, over the past two years the Election Fraud Investigation Unit has not received any formal complaints of voter intimidation or other election violations from the public regarding their employer or employers in general.
“Voters have the right to cast a ballot without the fear of their employer looking over their shoulder,” Salas told Uken Report. “AB 17, also known as the Voter Protection Act, will protect employees from undue influence or voter coercion. No one should be pressured by their supervisors or bosses to bring their vote by mail ballot into work. Pressuring workers to vote in a way that aligns with their employer undermines election integrity and interferes with a voter’s right to a free and unconstrained vote for a candidate or issue of their choice.”
The Voter Protection Act was among a smorgasbord of political fare Garcia outlined during his first week back in session after scoring a victory in the November election.
AB 17 has passed a floor vote before the California State Assembly and will next advance to the California State Senate for consideration.
The Voter Protection Act has the support of the California Teachers Association.
“(California Teachers Association) believes our voting systems must be free of procedures resulting in the loss of the right to vote by any citizen,” the CTA wrote in support of the measure. “The proposal sets in motion the opportunity to unfairly ‘influence’ votes cast and/or election outcomes. Secret ballots are the corner-stone of our American democracy and we should do all within our power to ensure voting privacy.”
To date, there have been no arguments in opposition to the Voter Protection Act.
- Eduardo Garcia: Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia
- Assemblymember Rudy Salas: Assemblymember Rudy Salas
- Vote-by-Mail: Shutterstock