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California expanded voting by mail before the delta variant surge

August 4, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: California is mailing out ballots for the recall election because of the delta variant.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The California Legislature passed a bill in February 2021, months before the delta variant surge, requiring that mail-in ballots be sent to all registered voters ahead of an election.

THE FACTS: On Sept. 14, California will hold a recall election that could remove first-term Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, from office. The recall vote is occurring after officials certified that 1.7 million valid petition signatures were turned in to qualify it for the ballot.

In February, the state Legislature passed a bill mandating that all active registered voters get a ballot in the mail for the election even if they didn’t ask for one. Ballots will be mailed this month. Even before the pandemic, more than half of California voters chose to mail in their ballots; in 2018 statewide elections, two-thirds of voters cast vote-by-mail ballots.

False posts on Twitter claimed that the delta variant led the state to send out mail-in ballots. “Due to new ‘delta variant’ California will be mailing in ballots for recall election,” a false tweet claims.

Other conspiracy posts online suggested that the variant was somehow “planned” to affect election results.

In fact, the bill requiring the distribution of mail-in ballots was signed before the ongoing delta surge.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the bill expands mail-in voting for all elections before January 2022, a spokesperson with the California secretary of state told the AP in an email.

“Voters can return their ballots by mail, drop box, or take advantage of the in-person voting options available in every California county during the September 14, 2021 Recall Election,” the spokesperson said.

The state enacted a similar bill earlier in the pandemic for the presidential election last year, the AP reported.

The recall election gained momentum due to anger fueled by Newsom’s handling of the virus.

Studies show there’s no partisan benefit to voting by mail. Online misinformation spread rampantly before last year’s presidential election with false claims suggesting voter fraud from mail-in ballots.

Surpassing last summer’s peak, new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., driven by the delta variant, are averaging more than 70,000 a day, the AP reported.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.