LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A newly signed state law makes spreading misinformation about voting by mail a misdemeanor criminal offense.

Authored by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, SB 739 took effect immediately after being signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.

“If you’re putting out tweets, Facebook posts or using social and other types of media to intentionally mislead voters about their right and ability to vote by mail, that’s now a crime, and it’s my hope local D.A.s and the state attorney general will go after violators the moment they see them,” Stern said. “In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, it is imperative that voters, especially those who are getting a vote-by-mail ballot for the first time, know their rights and are getting accurate, reliable information.”

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a record number of California voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail for the Nov. 3 general election. The new law makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally mislead a voter about their right to apply for, receive and return a vote-by-mail ballot.

“The spread of misinformation and disinformation are enormous threats to our elections. Voting by mail is a critical component of our plans to keep our elections accessible, secure and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “We need to discourage and combat election disinformation that could disenfranchise citizens. Our democracy depends on it.”

According to Padilla, nearly 60% of California’s voters are registered as permanent vote-by-mail voters and receive mail-in ballots before each election as allowed by California law.

It was already a misdemeanor for anyone to knowingly mislead voters about the location of their polling place or qualifications needed to register to vote.

For the Nov. 3 general election, all registered voters will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

Comments (52)
  1. Robert California says:

    Vote in person! Voting by mail is not as trustworthy

    1. While Trump has done as much as he can to slow down mail, it’s plenty trustworthy – and it has been since rifling mail was deemed a felony. The Postal Inspector crew is one of our most experienced and effective law enforcement entities, and – unlike some folks – they DO prosecute.

      What we don’t have is new statistics about the speed of US mail after the PMG was outed for his apparently nefarious actions on Trump’s behalf. Having that data would really help folks who can’t go out these days.

  2. Firenze says:

    What a ridiculous comment. Millions of people have been voting by mail for decades. There’s nothing untrustworthy about it. What’s untrustworthy is the current Post Master General De Joy trying to remove mail sorting machines and limiting extra trips to deliver late mail with the result of very slow mail service. He should be investigated. Thankfully a federal judge has put all of De Joy’s changes on hold until after the election.

    1. Emeka says:

      Boy I can’t wait to live in a country ruled by one party instead of just Cali. Just think, the govt will do our entire thinking for us and all we have to do is go along with everything they say! I’m glad to be on the same side as you Firenze!

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