Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives
© Greg Nash

Voters in three states, Arizona, Florida and Illinois, went to the polls Tuesday to vote in primary elections. Two other states, Georgia and Louisiana, delayed their elections and Ohio’s governor barred Tuesday’s election from going forward. In the midst of a growing COVID-19 outbreak, how do we exercise our right to vote while keeping voters, poll workers, and the rest of us safe? We vote from home.

Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy and we must do everything we can to protect them. Yet, the White House is now recommending that people do not gather in groups of 10 or more and the CDC tells us that we should all stay six feet apart. These are important measures to flatten the curve and keep our health care system from being overloaded as we try to head off a serious shortage of hospital beds and ventilators in the not too distant future.

Following public health recommendations could mean delaying more elections, and obviously, in the near term the pandemic is likely to continue to spread. With the number of novel coronavirus cases mounting daily, it’s hard to imagine that there will be a great time in the near future to reschedule.

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In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate will be 65 or older. And, most of our poll workers are over 60. These are the groups most at risk of serious complications or even death, if they contract COVID-19.

People should not have to put themselves, their families, and their communities at risk to cast their vote. And they don’t have to. Proponents of vote at home have been shouting from the rooftops for decades that voting from home allows all of us, and especially the most vulnerable among us, to cast our votes no matter how difficult it is for us to get to the polls. Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Hawaii all successfully hold their elections entirely by mail. California also permits extensive voting at home.

You may have heard that we have an important election coming up in November. And nearly half the states have presidential primaries scheduled between now and then. We must act now so that people can safely go to the polls. That’s why Congress must immediately pass legislation to allow people to vote at home.

Fortunately, last week Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack With a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (D-Ore.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharA Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit MORE (D-Minn.), as well as Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerInauguration parties lose the glitz and glamour in 2021 Four things Democrats should do in Biden's first 100 days House Republican wants restrictions on masks with messages MORE (D-Ore.), Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneWashington state neighbors underscore internal Democratic tensions Lawmakers, officials stress need to expand broadband access The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Moderna vaccine nears US approval; Congress cites 'progress' toward relief bill MORE (D-Wash.), and Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinInauguration parties lose the glitz and glamour in 2021 This week: Tensions running high in Trump's final days Democratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot MORE (D-Md.) introduced legislation that will allow people to vote at home in the event of widespread quarantines, other COVID-19-related emergencies, or natural disasters. This legislation authorizes $500 million in grants to states to cover postage and related costs. As Congress moves its coronavirus response packages forward, vote at home should be part of the essential relief provided to the American public.

In the midst of a pandemic, vote at home is clearly the answer to upholding the basic democratic value of the right to vote. This solution will protect both the right to vote and our public health--a win-win that saves our democracy and saves lives.

Liz Watson is the executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. She is the former labor policy director of the House Education and Labor Committee and a former Democratic nominee for Congress in Indiana’s 9th District.