Hoping to avoid scenes like this, with voters standing shoulder to shoulder in crowded polling places, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered that counties provide at least one voting site per 10,000 registered voters, in addition to previously announced vote-by-mail access. (Photo by Phil Roeder/Flickr)

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday to expand the state’s number of polling places ahead of the November general election, which state officials expect to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive order requires each county to offer at least one polling place for every 10,000 registered voters between Oct. 31 and Election Day on Nov. 3. The expansion is intended to reduce the number of voters at each location, allowing for shorter lines and smaller crowds.

“Expanded vote-by-mail, coupled with ample in-person voting on and before Election Day, is the best formula for maintaining the accessibility, security, and safety of our election,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

Newsom signed an executive order last month requiring the state to mail a ballot to all registered voters for each election, beginning in November. In-person voting will still be available and voters will be allowed to drop off their mail ballots at a polling place as usual.

Nearly 30 counties across the state — including Napa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — have already conducted elections in accordance with the Voters Choice Act, which requires at least one vote center for every 10,000 registered voters in a county.

Voters living anywhere in a county operating under the Voters Choice Act can drop off their ballots at a voter center, regardless of where their nearest polling place is.

“While we don’t know exactly how widespread COVID-19 will be this fall, the policies outlined in … this executive order will help protect both the public’s health and every voter’s right to vote,” said Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Los Altos.