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In era of GOP voter suppression, state Assembly extends voting choices to California farm workers

SACRAMENTO—At a time when many Republican-controlled states are limiting ballot-box participation and attempting to suppress voting by minority groups and others, a bill to afford farm workers taking part in union representation elections many of the same voting choices California political voters have enjoyed for years passed the state Assembly on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate. AB 2183 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (Santa Cruz) was approved on a 49 to 22 floor vote.

The only voting method when the Agricultural Labor Relations Act was passed in 1975 was using polling places nearly always located on grower property, which are fraught with coercion and intimidation by foremen, supervisors, and employer agents.  Sponsored by the United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation, AB 2183 would, for example, let farm workers cast ballots by mail in the security of their homes. Under the bill, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board would continue strictly overseeing the voting process. The ALRB would track and distribute ballot cards, let all parties contest the validity of signatures or worker identities, and provide an objective process for parties to contest the manner or method in which voters cast their ballots.

The measure provides for evidentiary hearings in front of a judge if valid objections are raised and invalidate election petitions if there is union misconduct.

As of the end of last year, Republican lawmakers in 19 states passed laws restricting voting, many targeting minority voters.

California has moved in the opposite direction in recent decades, to increase voter participation and resist attempts at voter suppression. AB 2183 seeks to extend those same voting choices to California farm workers.